Leo Morton announced this morning that he would retire next spring as chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a role he’s held since December 2008. In a letter to the campus sent today, Morton said he would remain in the role for one more academic year to help with a smooth transitino.
During his tenure, he oversaw significant growth in enrollment, with more than 16,000 students seeking degrees this year, as well as the university’s most successful capital campaign, creation of a strategic plan for diversity and inclusion, and a successful campaign to advance a Downtown arts campus, one of the Big Five civic goals set for the community in 2011.
“I still have several major projects that I want to complete before I retire,” he wrote, among them a new laboratory expansion for the School of Computing and Engineering, an urban youth development initiative, a new Career Development Institute to place UMKC students in key internships, and the Downtown arts campus drive.
Like other schools in the University of Missouri system, UMKC has been re-inventing itself in response to a long trend of declining public support from the state. Morton’s announcement comes just two months after the system brought on its new president, Mun Choi.
“Having worked through several significant and successful transformations at companies like AT&T and Aquila, I understand that it’s important for the team responsible for long-term execution to develop and own every aspect of the change,” Morton wrote. “There is no question in my mind that UMKC’s conversion will take several years. And, quite frankly, that’s a time commitment I am not able to make.”
Morton was named chancellor on Dec. 15, 2008, following a career in executive roles for Aquila Inc., AT&T Microelectronics, Bell Laboratories, General Motors, Rust Engineering Co. and Corning Glass. He also had been a UMKC Trustee since 2000 and was in his third year as chairman of the Trustees Board when he stepped down to serve as the university’s interim chancellor.
“I have always tried to serve with the best interests of UMKC and Kansas City close to my heart,” he said, “and I’ll be working in partnership with our campus and the community to ensure that UMKC continues on the path to be the great university this city needs.”