Some University of Mississippi employees wept this morning when their chancellor of 14 years, Robert C. Khayat, told them of his plans to retire June 30.
"Having reached the ripe old age of 70-plus, it is time for me to retire," Khayat said. "I do so with a heart filled with gratitude to the thousands of people who support our university. I leave with an abiding affection for the people and the school, and with confidence that this university will continue to provide the quality programs so vital to our state and region."
Sue Keiser, Khayat's assistant for 11 years, said, "I simply can't imagine Ole Miss without him. Working with him on a daily basis to move our university from good to great has been richly rewarding, but above that, our friendship has been one of the greatest joys of my life. "
Khayat, a former baseball catcher and football kicker on Ole Miss sports teams, has been calling the signals at his alma mater since summer 1995. Since then, he has drawn praise for a multitude of achievements that have earned the institution national respect, recognition and admiration.
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This past semester alone, the university ranked among the nation's top 25 public universities on Forbes.com, hosted a presidential debate, announced its 25th Rhodes Scholar, inaugurated the first black president of its alumni association, trounced Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl and wound down its successful $200 million MomentUM campaign.
"We were really a relatively unknown state university, but he has made us nationally prominent," said Provost Emeritus Carolyn Staton, Khayat's friend and colleague for more than 30 years. "I think that will forever change the direction of the university. I think history will truly treat him as one of the heroes of Ole Miss."
Read more about this story in Wednesday's Sun Herald.