Curris leads based on personal ideals

Chairman Constantine Curris said preparing students for entering the competitive global economy is a primary goal of the Board of Regents.

Curris has been chair of the board for three of the four years he has served as a regent. His primary responsibility is to lead board meetings and discuss items on the agenda with fellow Regents.

“Universities prosper when the governing board and the central administration are working together in tandem to advance the institution,” Curris said.

Along with the responsibility of running meetings, Curris meets with the Audit and Compliance and Finance and Regional Services committees.

Curris said many recent board discussions have considered what changes could be made to the University over the next few years. These changes, according to Curris, would benefit the students of Murray State as well as western Kentucky.

“I truly believe in public higher education,” Curris said. “I served as the president at Murray State for 10 years, so I have a personal investment in the future of the University.”

At the age of 32, Curris became the president of Murray State, making him the youngest university president in Kentucky history. Curris also served as president at the University of Northern Iowa and at Clemson University.

Curris said he believed Gov. Steve Beshear asked him to serve on the board due to his prior public education experience.

“I think as a former president I understand how a university operates internally,” Curris said. “I think I’ve been helpful to the board in bringing that experience to the board’s deliberations.”

Looking back at his experiences as a student at the University of Kentucky helped Curris shape some of the ideals he uses as chair of the board. Curris received his undergraduate and doctorate degrees from UK and his master’s degree from the University of Illinois.

Keeping tuition low, forming policies and focusing on student experiences are all values Curris said he learned from being a student. Curris said Murray State is very student-centered and the board focuses on this aspect when administering new procedures on campus.

Curris said being a central administrator is different from working on the board.

“As a regent, you basically focus on policy issues six days a year,” Curris said. “Although I hold many of the same values as I did as president, it is a different position.”

Beside his central work at various universities, Curris has held many positions in public education. He recently retired from presidency of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, which he held since October of 1999.

AASCU presides over more than 400 public colleges and universities. Curris has been involved with the organization since 1973.

Curris also spent 10 years in Washington, D.C., discussing student aid and higher education with the U.S. Department of Education.

“When you have experience such as that, it has a bearing on how you work as a regent,” Curris said.

Curris has been involved in several community projects.

While president of the University of Northern Iowa, Curris headed a United Way campaign. The organization, which aspires to improve education, helps people achieve financial stability and promote healthy lives.

“It provided an interesting perspective for me,” Curris said. “Many people in a college town do not attend a university, never have, yet you can still be very helpful to them.”

Curris said between public education, nonprofit and corporation work, he has gained a better understanding of people and society. He said those experiences influenced his decision making.

Curris said students should be the primary focus of the board. Curris said students should also make sure they work hard by balancing their studies and other activities.

Said Curris: “In the process, develop your personal values so that you’ll always be a credit to your family, your faith and the University.”

Story by Lexy Gross, Assistant News Editor.