President Robert Davies aims to lead CMU with rigor, relevance and excellence

CMU's president-elect Robert O. Davies smiles as he walks through campus on Aug. 3 at Central Michigan University.

Rigor, relevance and excellence is what new president Robert Davies said he brings to Central Michigan University. 

"We, as an institution of higher learning, must make sure that we do everything at the rigorous level, be it administratively, be it academically, be it moving the institution forward," Davies said.

Davies was appointed CMU’s 15th president on Friday, Aug. 3 at a special formal session of the Board of Trustees. Davies will begin as president on Sept. 1. Provost Michael Gealt will continue to serve as interim president.

Davies' formal contract with the university ends Aug. 31, 2021, with a starting salary of $415,000, reviewed annually. 

President George Ross announced he would be stepping down in January, effective July 31. Witt-Kieffer, and outside search firm, was hired to spearhead the confidential search for CMU's 15th president. 

The board and a presidential search committee vetted more than 70 diverse candidates, seeking an experienced leader, a long-term visionary and someone with passion for higher education.

As university president, it will be Davies job to be an active and influential leader, work closely with the Board of Trustees and advocate for resources and CMU's reputation.

“I’m so proud of where we’ve come, of the choice that we’ve made as we sat together as a university community, just as we did on the leadership profile,” said Trustee Tricia Keith. “To then wrap our arms around Dr. Davies and his family as they join us to set us off on a wonderful path on the next however many years as we continue to work toward making CMU all that it can be.”

In addition to his “rigor, relevance and excellence” mantra, Davies quickly adopted CMU’s tried and true chant, “fire up chips” and slogan “put your stamp on the world” in his statements. 

“Central Michigan University is very very stellar and I look forward to working with all of you – the faculty, the staff, the alumni, community leaders – as we fulfill a promise by putting a stamp on the world,” Davies said. 

Davies will be leaving his position as 13th president at Murray State University, in Kentucky, where he worked for four years. Prior to Murray State University, Davies was president of Eastern Oregon University and vice president for university relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. 

“I believe that anyone working on a university campus has the best job in the world,” Davies said. “Why is that? Because every day in our classrooms, in our facilities, in our labs, in our dormitories, across our campus, we are indeed creating the future.” 

Davies's work at previous universities stood out to the board, including his design and oversight of a strategic vision for the future of Murray State University, which led to increased enrollment, Keith said.

In addition, his background and the family that would be accompanying him –wife Cindy and daughter Katie – stood out to the board­­, Keith said. 

“Dr. Davies grew up in a university family,” she said. “His parents were both university educators and administrators. And so, he told us the stories of how, as he came up through the ranks, his dinner table conversations were about understanding the university community.” 

Davies wasn’t looking for a new position but was contacted in late June about the job and given a prompt deadline to apply, he said. CMU was already on his radar, and its focus on students and its national status as a research institution attracted him, he added.  

"Higher education is changing dramatically," Davies said. "It is up to us to not just respond to it, but lead the way. Therefore we need to be innovative, take calculated risks and hold each other accountable."

"At the foundation of Central Michigan University -- and it is so prevalent in everything that we do - there is such pride and loyalty," Davies said. "For the 24,000 plus students and the faculty and staff, the 225,000 alumni around the world, the community members that are also advocates to this fine institution,  that is the power that sets ourselves and we move forward to put that stamp on the world."