Roy Summerford, 334/844-9999


AUBURN The Auburn University Board of Trustees on Monday appointed Provost William Walker interim president, succeeding William Muse, who last week was named chancellor of East Carolina University.

Muse was appointed special counsel to the board until he assumes the East Carolina position on Aug. 1.

In the specially called meeting, the board also authorized Board President Pro Tem Jimmy Samford to begin the search for a new president. The board gave Samford approval to identify and hire a nationally recognized executive search firm to assist in the search. Samford said he also will appoint a committee drawing from all major AU constituencies to participate in the process.

Samford complimented Muse for his leadership at Auburn during the past nine years.

"The Auburn Family can take great pride in the progress our university has made over the past decade," he said. "During that time, under the leadership of Dr. William Muse, our university has seen unparalleled growth in academic success, financial success and an athletic program that graduates our student athletes at a higher rate than any other public institution in the Southeastern Conference."

With the president's impending departure coming during a time of financial stress for the university due to cuts in state funding, Samford said the board needed to act quickly to appoint an interim president.

"The next few months are critical to Auburn from a budget and academic standpoint, and we need to manage the shortfall we have this year while planning for next year's budget," he added.

Samford said Walker was a natural choice as interim president because of Walker's role as AU's chief academic officer, his experience as a faculty member and administrator and strengths he brings to the position.

"He has built a solid reputation with our faculty, which is one of our most important constituencies," Samford said. "He shoots straight, and in my times with him, I have come to understand that he feels very strongly about Auburn University."

Walker credited Muse with strengthening the university and getting various groups to work together for the betterment of the institution.

"It has been my great personal privilege to have had Bill Muse as president," he said.

As interim president, Walker said his immediate challenge will be to address a direct cut in state funding of $13 million over the next seven months and adjust for state funding over two years that will be $30 million less than the university had expected.

"Certainly, the financial challenges are sobering, but they are neither fatal nor unique," Walker added. "One of my hopes for the long term is that we learn how to manage financial crises without sacrificing advances that have been made."

Muse said he will always regard Auburn as a special institution with many special people, adding, "I will always appreciate the opportunity to have served."

Responding to concerns raised by Lindsey Boney, president of the Student Government Association, Samford said the board did not intend for its action to be interpreted as disrespect for the departing president.

"We appreciate the job that Bill Muse has done for Auburn University during his tenure. The institution is in better shape today than when he arrived, and that is a tribute to him," Samford said.

Noting that Muse's remaining months would be a period of transition, Samford added, "The board determined that we need a president who can have 100 percent of his effort and time devoted to Auburn. This is no reflection on Dr. Muse or the job he has done."

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