Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2001

Blair tapped to lead Regents again

August 11, 2001

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Clay Blair's election to a second year as chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents is not unprecedented, but it is unusual.

Traditionally, the chairman serves one year, and then the vice chairman becomes chairman.

But in June, Vice Chairman Jack Wempe of Little River said Blair should be chairman one more year because many issues before the board from the past year will carry over.

"He (Blair) has given this board a huge amount of time, a lot of enthusiasm, and we have had a relatively good year," Wempe said. The nine-member board oversees public higher education in Kansas.

"In looking at what we have to do a year from now we might be further down the line if we would utilize him (Blair) as chairman," Wempe added.

Blair's selection as chairman for another year was unanimous, as was the vote for Wempe to remain as vice chairman.

Blair, 57, is a Johnson County businessman with ties to Kansas University. He owns Clay Blair Services Corp., which represents clients in real estate investment and development.

He earned his bachelor of science degree from KU in 1965, received a master's degree in business administration from Indiana University, and then returned to KU to earn a doctorate in education in 1969.

As regents chairman during the past year, he worked with lawmakers on several higher education issues.

Blair was unfamiliar with the legislative process when the 2001 session started in January. But by the end of the session, he was regularly seen entering and leaving backroom meetings with key lawmakers.

"It has been an evolution the past two years," Blair said. "It has been exciting."

Blair said he believed the meetings with lawmakers paid off. Despite a tight budget year, the Legislature funded an average faculty pay raise of 6.2 percent and restored some base budget cuts that had been proposed earlier.

Lawmakers also advanced a research initiative and regents tax credit program to be studied before the next session.

Blair said he believes he can build on relationships he worked on with key lawmakers during the next session.

As Wempe said, Blair is nothing if not enthusiastic.

Ask him what he wants to do for the coming year, and Blair hands out a three-page list.

The list includes implementing recommendations of a statewide study on higher education, reviewing the vocational-technical schools, and improving relationships with the Legislature.

One of the items on his list will help lawmakers gain a better understanding on funding of higher education, he said.

Blair said he wants to establish an index that will be able to measure whether schools are spending too much on the administrative side of the ledger.

"This is a guide to determine how efficient institutions function," he said.

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