Kansas University’s new provost is a former Texas A&M administrator who has served in a number of leadership roles at public and private institutions.
Jeffrey S. Vitter is a former provost at Texas A&M University. He currently serves as professor of computer science and engineering at Texas A&M. He stepped aside as provost to make way for a new leadership team after the university’s president resigned.
In a conference call with members of the media Monday afternoon, Vitter said that perhaps his biggest challenge in his new role will be getting the word out about how good KU is as an institution. He said he has experience in executing strategic planning, and would look to build on momentum generated by three task forces recently convened by KU’s chancellor.
“One of the advantages of doing a strategic plan is it’s a way of focusing visibility on what you’re accomplishing,” Vitter said.
He said he planned to take an active role in KU’s upcoming fundraising campaign, saying he’s enjoyed meeting with donors in the past and sharing their pride for their universities.
“It puts things in perspective and makes you realize how special a university like KU is,” Vitter said.
He has also served as the dean of the College of Science at Purdue University, and as a faculty member at Brown University and Duke University, where he was chairman of the computer science department.
Vitter earned a bachelor’s degree with highest honors in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame in 1977, a doctorate in computer science from Stanford University in 1980 and a master’s of business administration from Duke in 2002. He was born and raised in New Orleans.
“I am very pleased that Jeff Vitter will join KU in this important leadership role,” Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in a statement. “He brings extensive academic and administrative experience, from faculty member at Brown to department chair at Duke, to dean at Purdue and provost at Texas A&M. He also has an outstanding record as a scholar.”
His wife, Sharon Weaver Vitter, is a native of Miami County, who earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from KU. They have three children, daughters Jillian, a second-year medical student at Georgetown University; and Audrey, a freshman at Notre Dame in chemical engineering; and son Scott, a senior at Notre Dame in mechanical engineering.
Vitter will earn $350,000 in his new role, and will have access to a car for business purposes. His predecessor, Richard Lariviere, was hired in 2006 at a salary of $278,000, a figure that had risen to $302,089 as of July 1, 2008.
The university has been searching for a new top academic officer for KU’s Lawrence campus after Lariviere left last year to become president at the University of Oregon. Vitter will take over on July 1, and Danny J. Anderson will continue as interim provost until that time.
Mabel Rice, chairwoman of the provost search committee, said Vitter distinguished himself among a strong field of candidates with the scope of his leadership experience.
“He also leaves a trail of people who admire him and his leadership ability,” Rice said.
A 16-member search committee delivered three finalists to Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little: Vitter, Philip J. McConnaughay, law dean at Penn State University, and Steve Warren, vice provost for research and graduate studies at KU.