Last Modified: Friday, May 25, 2012 11:18 PM
BATON ROUGE (AP) — LSU Chancellor Mike Martin announced Friday that he will leave his job at Louisiana’s flagship university in August to lead the three-campus Colorado State University System, ending a four-year tenure at LSU marked with deep budget cuts and threatened with even more reductions.
“While I was not actively looking to leave LSU, when Colorado State approached me with this very challenging opportunity, I felt I had to listen. As it turned out, the opportunity was one that interested and intrigued me, and in the end, I felt it was an excellent chance for me to have a positive effect on the field of higher education,” Martin said in an email to LSU students, faculty and staff.
Martin, 65, said he’ll stay in Louisiana to see the state’s flagship university campus into the start of the new budget year that begins July 1. That means he would likely also decide how to cut spending on campus in another round of expected state budget reductions.
Colorado State University governing board members voted unanimously for Martin, calling him a strong leader who can build relationships with lawmakers and businessmen. Martin, an economist originally from Minnesota, was recommended to the board after an eight-month search.
“The board believes that Dr. Martin is a proven visionary higher education leader who is respected across the country,” said CSU governing board chairman Joe Zimlich.
Martin was offered a five-year contract with a pay package that includes a $375,000 annual base salary and potential incentive payments of $50,000 a year.
Deferred compensation payments could increase his total compensation to $500,000 per year, similar to the pay arrangement he has at LSU, according to Kyle Henley, a CSU spokesman.
After being in charge of two different universities, Martin said the CSU job offered the ability to test himself to determine if he could lead a multi-campus university system.
A former president of New Mexico State University, Martin will replace Joe Blake, who retired as chancellor of the Colorado State University system in December. The CSU chancellor oversees an annual operating budget of $950 million and about 37,000 students spread across three campuses.
The interim president of the LSU System, William Jenkins, was named to also serve as interim chancellor of LSU’s main campus in Baton Rouge once Martin leaves.
Since he was hired at LSU in 2008, Martin has been charged with leading a university with 28,000 students that has faced repeated budget cuts in recent years — with more slashing on the horizon. He’s described the continued budget crises as “fatiguing” and acknowledged he didn’t want to spend the last years of his higher education career overseeing cuts that could damage a campus.
“I will begin the new job at Colorado State University in August, and until that time, will work to impress upon the Louisiana Legislature the need for adequate funding for the state’s flagship university,” Martin said.
Louisiana college leaders have warned the type of higher education slashing that is being considered by state lawmakers could push university campuses to financial emergency, eliminate programs, force thousands of layoffs and jeopardize training programs.
“If this holds, you will see a generational change,” Martin told senators recently. “You will set back the state’s flagship institution at least two decades, and it may never recover.”
Martin said the budget troubles have made several university systems around the country believe that Louisiana’s higher education workers could be ripe for the picking. He said that likely led to CSU approaching him about the leadership job.
“I believe (it) was viewed by the search firm that I was on the market,” Martin said. “While I didn’t go looking for another job because of the budget cuts, I think other jobs came looking for me.”
Martin’s decision also comes at a time of administrative upheaval at LSU.
The university system’s Board of Supervisors fired system President John Lombardi in April after criticism that he didn’t work well with campus leaders or state lawmakers. Martin said the discussions with CSU didn’t have to do with Lombardi’s firing.
Questions have been raised about whether the LSU System’s governance should be restructured, with a system president who also acts as flagship campus chancellor.
LSU Board of Supervisors Chairman Hank Danos said the board was evaluating the system’s organizational structure, but added that the decision for Jenkins to act in both positions “does not indicate a decision or preference on potential reorganization.”
Martin’s base salary at LSU was $400,000 a year, but his contract included deferred payments that would increase his total compensation to $525,000 per year if he stayed at LSU through 2013.