Interim President Tim Miller will soon leave the president’s office in Wells Hall, handing the position over to a new president in March.
Editor-in-Chief Lexy Gross sat down with Miller and discussed his past, present and future at Murray State.
Lexy Gross: What do you think you’ll be focusing on during the last portion of your term as president?
Tim Miller: I’m looking right now at the legislative session because that’s where we get an important piece of our revenue from – through state appropriations. So the president has to be up there probably twice a week because they have committee meetings, they call on us to give reports to their committees and make our case.
Right now we have a 2.5 percent cut and we’re having to pay half of our pension costs. That’s big. It’s over $2 million and we really can’t afford to do that. So I’ve got to spend all my time really trying to convince them that it’s going to hurt higher education and it’s forcing us to raise tuition on students and we don’t want to do that.
Also our budget, we’ve got to get it ready for the new president. We’re in the hole big time. Right now we’re at about $2.5 million in savings, but we’re close to $5 millions in the hole. So we may need to raise tuition by about 5 percent, that would get us close to breaking even. But we don’t know if the Council on Postsecondary Education is going to set a cap at 3 percent or so, if they do that, we’d have to lay off people. And that’s what really bothers me. I’ll have many sleepless nights over that.
LG: Do you think the financial situation at Murray State could be overwhelming to a new president?
TM: The increased cost of education affects the whole nation. I think wherever these people are from, we don’t know yet, I’m sure their states have economic problems. They’re probably used to that. What I’m concerned about is the quality of education at Murray State, the excellence that we’ve always had at Murray State over the years.
Enrollment is another issue we’re focusing on. We’ve got to get out and get students.
I think a new president will have some fresh ideas, but he’s going to have to deal with the economic and fiscal problems. But I’m sure he’s going to be equipped to do that.
LG: What will you do after you leave Murray State?
TM: I’ll always be interested in Murray State. I’ve been here for 47 consecutive years. I’m going to be sad to leave and I’ll always keep up with Murray State. My wife and I will travel some I’m sure, I’ve got grandchildren we’ll be more involved with. I don’t know. I may teach some courses.
I’m not sure yet, I haven’t really decided what I’ll do.
LG: Do you have any long-term dreams for Murray State?
TM: I want it to be the premier public institution. It’s not going to be the University of Kentucky or the University of Louisville, because of funding, but I want us to be the premier institution in this region. And I think we’re really close to that. Just because of the funding cuts we’ve had we’ve suffered some. But Murray State’s special, and I want it to stay special.
LG: What has been one of your favorite experiences at Murray State?
TM: I’ve had so many. But what I’m most proud of is to see graduates of Murray State, especially those I’ve taught, go on be successful at high-level positions. I love to see our graduates become successful and contribute to society.
LG: What will you miss the most about Murray State?
TM: I’ll miss teaching and interacting with students. I may just go down to the street corner and start teaching accounting to anyone who will listen.
LG: What quality do you is important for our new president to have?
TM: The new president needs to be a people-person because you have to create good will and it starts at the top. He’s got to be interested in students and their success, and their job employments. He’ll meet with parents and donors – that’s really important. Fundraising is extremely important.
He’s got to be able to go to Frankfort and make a clear statement of the needs of Murray State, help getting those needs funded. He needs to interact with the Board and keep them informed. Be a person with good communication skills. He needs to love students and someone who hopefully will develop a good relationship concerning Murray State University. They need to be proud to be here at Murray State and realize what a great institution it is.