LSU President F. King Alexander is leaving Louisiana for Oregon, where he has been named the next president of Oregon State University.
At a special meeting this morning in Corvallis, the OSU Board of Trustees approved Alexander’s appointment and five-year contract, which will pay him some $800,000 a year in total compensation.
Alexander, who took over at the helm of the LSU system in 2013 as the first joint president and chancellor, tells Daily Report he was not actively looking to leave Baton Rouge but that headhunters for OSU reached out to him in early April and he decided to “play out the process and see what happens.”
“My wife, Shenette, has been talking for over a year about where my last move would be before we retired and the West Coast kept coming up,” says Alexander, who spent nearly 10 years at the helm of Cal State Long Beach before coming to LSU. “Oregon called early, and this deal came to fruition. We couldn’t be more thrilled. This is a fantastic place.”
While at LSU, his tenure was marked by significant wins on several fronts. Faculty received pay raises, enrollment increased both in size and diversity, as did graduation rates, the flagship campus in Baton Rouge embarked on a $1.1 billion building campaign and the LSU Foundation launched a system-wide $1.5 billion capital campaign.
“Next Friday, we will graduate our largest fall graduating class ever and in every category—African American, Native American, Hispanic,” Alexander says. “At the end of the day, I’m proud to say we’ve shattered every record. That is what matters most.”
Still, Alexander had his share of detractors, especially over his push for more open admissions as well as his handling of issues involving the LSU football program.
“On the admissions issue, we’re just trying to increase access,” Alexander says. “We’ve enrolled the most diverse classes at LSU. I guess I underestimated that not everybody is on board with that. That took me aback.”
Alexander will succeed OSU President Ed Ray, who announced in March he will step down in June 2020 after 17 years at the university, which is located about 80 miles south of Portland and is comparable in size to LSU’s Baton Rouge campus.
OSU is the largest university in that state, and, like LSU, is a land grant and sea grant institution, with some 31,000 students. It also has a 2,000-student campus in Bend, Oregon and a satellite facility in Portland. Unlike the LSU system, however, it does not have seven campuses and two medical schools.
OSU currently bests LSU in the U.S. News and World Report ranking of colleges and universities—139th to 153rd. In the Wall Street Journal’s ranking system, however, which Alexander has touted as more accurate and meaningful because it is more heavily weighted towards outcomes, LSU outranks OSU, 85th to 315.
He says he will continue to work in national policy, fighting for increased federal funding for higher ed and for ranking systems that more accurately measure the performance of state colleges and universities.
Alexander says it is with mixed emotion that he leaves.
“We have loved every minute being a part of LSU,” he says. “The people have grit and determination.”
He will step down as president at the end of the month but will remain at LSU through March, helping with the transition. He takes over at OSU June 30.