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LSU Chancellor search committee invites NMSU President Martin for visit

New Mexico State University Board of Regents Chair Robert Gallagher announced Friday morning that NMSU President Michael V. Martin has accepted an invitation to be the sole finalist in Louisiana State University's search for chancellor.

New Mexico State University President Michael V. Martin has been selected as the sole finalist in Louisiana State University's search for chancellor of its Baton Rouge campus. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

The LSU Chancellor Search Committee on Thursday unanimously authorized an invitation to Martin to visit the Baton Rouge campus next week for a series of interviews and meetings beginning Tuesday. Meetings are scheduled with search committee members, faculty, staff and students.

Gallagher said Martin has assured the board that he will not make a final decision until he returns after his visit and meets with the NMSU regents. On the prospect of Martin leaving NMSU, Gallagher said, "We feel terrible. Mike Martin has been one of the most outstanding university presidents, leaders and personal friends to people in this community that this institution has had in 115 years."

Gallagher cited Martin's record of accomplishments during his four-year tenure, including the largest freshman enrollment last fall in the university's history, a 6 percent gain in overall enrollment last fall and a renowned relationship with the New Mexico Legislature that included significant support for the planned arts complex. Gallagher said other universities' interest in Martin says a lot about the caliber of NMSU's president.

"We have a president that anybody in this country would be proud to call president of their university," Gallagher said.

Should Martin accept the position at LSU, Gallagher said the regents would pursue the "best and the brightest" leadership to ensure that the academic mission at NMSU continues to move forward.

Martin said he had been approached last year by LSU System President John Lombardi, who he described as a former boss, mentor and friend. In early 2008, Martin was contacted by a firm helping with the chancellor search, and while he didn't become a candidate then, he has decided to do so now. Martin said it would be difficult to leave NMSU, but the leadership of the board of regents would ensure NMSU continues in its commitment to academic excellence.

"He would be a very strong leader for our campus," said LSU Dean Jack Hamilton, search committee chair, who cited Martin's success in fundraising at NMSU and in dealing with the New Mexico Legislature. "He's worthy of this place and I hope he decides to come. I also hope the committee decides to pick him."

Upon completion of the campus interviews, the search committee is expected to meet Friday, May 23, to determine if it can make a recommendation to Lombardi. Lombardi would then decide whether to send a recommendation forward to the LSU Board of Supervisors for approval. Lombardi described Martin as "highly qualified" to lead the Baton Rouge campus.

Martin has been president of NMSU since 2004. As a strong voice for education and the agriculture industry in New Mexico, he was awarded the 2008 Distinguished Leadership Award by Leadership New Mexico. The award recognizes an individual who has used his/her leadership abilities to improve the quality of life for New Mexico citizens and future generations.

In 2007, Martin was named winner of the Justin Smith Morrill Memorial Award, a national honor named after the author of the bill creating land-grant universities, for his service on behalf of the land-grant mission of delivering accessible learning that combines practical skills with classical education, research and discovery in the public interest. Only six individuals have been designated to receive this award since it was first given in 1980.

Before joining NMSU, Martin was vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Florida for six years, leading more than 3,000 employees statewide.