Mark Hussey was named interim president of Texas A&M University in College Station by a unanimous Texas A&M University System Board of Regents on Saturday.
Hussey will ascend to the temporary position in mid-January, after current President R. Bowen Loftin officially departs to become chancellor of the University of Missouri. It was noted at the board meeting that Hussey, whose starting annual salary in the interim position will be $425,000, will not be a candidate for the permanent presidency.
Hussey, A&M's dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the system’s vice chancellor for agricultural agencies, was backed by A&M System Chancellor John Sharp. But regents had been pushed by Gov. Rick Perry, an old friend and sometimes rival of Sharp's, to give the interim job to Guy Diedrich, the system's former government relations head and current vice chancellor for strategic initiatives.
Such a dispute is nothing new for Sharp and Perry, who became friends as undergraduates at A&M and have enjoyed an on-and-off-again rivalry ever since. However, it became perhaps their most public spat since Perry defeated Sharp in a 1998 race to be the state's lieutenant governor.
As word of the potential candidates leaked publicly, some faculty and higher education observers expressed concerns about Diedrich's perceived lack of academic credentials. In his defense, a Perry spokeswoman said the governor believed Diedrich to be "a qualified candidate with a vision for the future of Texas A&M."
At Saturday's meeting, Regent Tony Buzbee, a Houston trial lawyer, said the board — and Buzbee, whose contact info was posted online in an effort to drum up support for Hussey, in particular — had heard from many constituents about the issue. "We appreciate that input," he said. He also indicated that the board was not as divided on the issue as people had indicated in the days preceding the meeting.
State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, issued a statement calling Hussey an "excellent choice."
"Dr. Hussey's commitment, leadership, and decades of academic achievement make him an ideal choice to lead Texas A&M University," Schwertner said, "I know he will serve with distinction until the search committee names a permanent selection next year."