Leo Morton, who has served as chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City since December 2008, plans to retire in the spring of 2018, he announced Tuesday in a letter to the UMKC campus.
In his time as chancellor, Morton oversaw significant enrollment growth, UMKC’s most successful capital campaign and the creation of a strategic plan for diversity and inclusion, according to a UMKC release. He has been praised by many as a champion for the city, The Kansas City Star reports.
Morton took the chancellor’s role on an interim basis in 2008. He had served on UMKC’s board of trustees since 2000 and was in his third year as chairman of that board.
He spent most of his career in the private sector, working in engineering and management roles with AT&T Microelectronics, Bell Laboratories, General Motors, Rust Engineering, Corning Glass and, most recently, Aquila.
Morton’s announcement comes as all the UM System’s campuses face budget cuts and layoffs. Morton, now 71, said in his note that those challenges are best left to his successor.
“Having worked through several significant and successful transformations at companies like AT&T and Aquila, I understand that it’s important for the team responsible for long-term execution to develop and own every aspect of the change,” Morton wrote. “There is no question in my mind that UMKC’s conversion will take several years. And, quite frankly, that’s a time commitment I am not able to make.”
Morton’s planned departure is the latest in a series of high-profile leadership changes within the UM System.
Mun Y. Choi took office as president of the statewide system in March.
Days later, Cheryl Schrader, chancellor of the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, announced she would leave the school to become the president of Wright State University on July 1. Christopher Maples replaced Schrader on an interim basis on May 15.
At the end of March, Hank Foley, who had been serving as interim chancellor of the system’s flagship campus in Columbia since 2015, announced he would be leaving the university in May. Garnett Stokes took over for Foley as interim chancellor, although MU is expected to announce a full-time replacement on Wednesday.
For Morton, Tuesday’s announcement came with the acknowledgement that there are still goals he would like to accomplish before his departure.
“I plan to remain through the upcoming academic year. I still have several major projects that I want to complete before I retire,” he wrote, citing an expansion of UMKC’s school of computing and engineering, and progress on the school’s Downtown Arts Campus, among other projects.