Missouri State University President Clif Smart announced plans on Wednesday to retire in summer 2024.
Smart has served as the 11th president of the MSU system, including the West Plains campus, since June 27, 2011.
The announcement came first via a video posted to the Missouri State University YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LzCTPVVY-k, in which Smart recounted the many accomplishments achieved during his tenure before addressing viewers, saying, “I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished together, but it’s time to pass the baton to someone else who can build on the good work we have been doing.”
“I wanted you all to be the first to know,” he said before making the big announcement.
“It has been my greatest honor to serve as president of Missouri State University,” Smart said in a press release issued by the university. “I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the unyielding dedication and the remarkable passion of our students, faculty and staff.”
MSU-West Plains Chancellor Dennis Lancaster sang Smart’s praises, crediting him for growth and improvements at the local campus over the last dozen years.
“Without a doubt, we will miss Clif as the MSU System president,” Lancaster said in a statement to the Quill. “Many may not realize it, but President Smart has been critically instrumental in the growth and maturation of Missouri State-West Plains during the past 12 years. He has helped us meet our challenges and aided in our victories, and we thank him for his interest and downright affection for our campus.”
“Missouri State University has thrived under Clif’s leadership,” said Board of Governors Chair Chris Waters said. “He saw us through the very challenging years of the pandemic and has moved the university forward in too many ways to name.
“Clif’s visionary leadership, unwavering commitment to academic excellence and genuine passion for the growth of our students have left a lasting mark on our university. He has led with integrity and innovation. His impact will continue to resonate within these halls and beyond.”
With Smart at the helm, the overall university has been recognized as a doctoral granting university by the State of Missouri, the Missouri Coordinating Board of Higher Education and the Higher Learning Commission, noted system officials. It has also doubled the number of terminal degree programs offered, adding Master of Fine Arts programs and doctorates in occupational therapy, psychology and defense and strategic studies.
Systemwide, MSU has completed the two largest comprehensive campaigns in university history, at $274 million and $167 million; set records in state and federal appropriations, private gifts and grant funding; set new records in numbers of graduates, graduate employment rates and overall enrollment; increased faculty and staff diversity, including establishing a successful mentoring program for underrepresented and international faculty; and maintained affordability for students by raising tuition and fees by less than the rate of inflation while reducing the number of hours required to graduate from 126 to 120, officials pointed out.
In West Plains, campus improvements have included the expansion of online classes and the addition of several campus buildings, including Hass-Darr Hall in 2018, which now houses the Carol Silvey Student Union, Drago College Store, William and Virginia Darr Honors Program, Veterans Center, admissions offices and tutoring services. Most recently, in fall 2022 the campus opened the Terry “Bo” Pace Advanced Welding and Fabrication Technology Center in the former Coca-Cola bottling plant on Broadway.
“As I approach retirement, I can’t help but smile at the memories we’ve created and the progress we’ve made together,” said Smart. “This institution will forever hold a special place in my heart, and I’m excited to see how its story continues to unfold.”
“Personally, he’s been a great mentor and role model for me, and not just when I became chancellor. I’ve watched him grow and change as the university has grown and changed,” Lancaster shared. “His leadership, especially during the pandemic, has made us all better leaders of this university that we all care about so much. We’ll miss him, but his impact will always be around.”
The university will conduct a national search to replace Smart. The search will be managed in-house and will be led by a search committee to be named by the end of September.