A top Kansas University administrator is one of two finalists to become president of the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Jim Roberts, KU vice provost for research and president of the KU Center for Research Inc., is scheduled to be in Huntsville today for interviews and meetings on the 7,100-student campus.
"Jim's a very talented person, and the problem with having really excellent people is that they're in demand at other institutions as well," KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said. "Jim certainly has the ability to be a president somewhere; I don't think there's any question about it."
The other finalist is David B. Williams, vice provost for research at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.
Huntsville is a growing community that's home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
Kellee Reinhart, a spokeswoman for the University of Alabama, said Roberts' experience in research and economic development makes him an attractive candidate.
"He just represents the best of the best : in terms of national credentials in research, in partnerships with industry and in economic development," she said.
Roberts has three degrees in electrical engineering: a bachelor's degree from KU in 1966, a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate from Santa Clara University. After two decades working in private industry, he came to KU in 1990 as professor and chairman of the department of electrical and computer engineering.
Hemenway and others credit Roberts with helping faculty obtain coveted research dollars. Since he assumed a campuswide role in research in 1998, research awards at KU's Lawrence and medical center campuses have grown 85 percent, from $118 million to $218 million last year.
"He's part of the reason that the research generated by our faculty has grown rather dramatically," said Kevin Boatright, spokesman for Roberts' vice provost office. "I think Jim is very happy continuing at KU. He's been a KU person for more than 40 years : so he has great loyalty to the institution, but I think he also recognizes that the position in Huntsville may be a very good fit for the kind of experience and background he has."
Roberts could not be reached for comment Tuesday.