Coast Leaders React To USM President's Departure

Dr. Pat Smith sat down with some colleagues today and talked about how USM president Horace Fleming's resignation could impact the Long Beach campus, and its future as a four year college. He said, "We need to insist that the person who is chosen be at least as good an advocate as Horace Fleming, have at least the courage that he had."

The past few days, people like Pat Smith and Long Beach Mayor Robert Bass campaigned on behalf of Dr. Fleming, because Fleming supported the four year college concept. Mayor Bass said, "We're going to have to be extremely careful and extremely energetic in making sure that whoever comes in behind him has that same kind of fervor for this area."

The state college board will form a search committee to fill Dr. Fleming's vacancy. Coast leaders hope that committee chooses somebody like Fleming. "I want to believe that they're committed," Dr. Smith said, "but I think it's very important that we remain insistent."

In the past, the state college board has gone on record supporting strategic plans to bring a four year college to Long Beach. And it's currently fighting state community colleges in court to protect that possibility. Dr. Smith said, "We have to insist that those projects remain priorities of the board."

USM Gulf Park has a new library and a new advanced education center already under construction. To make sure the multi-million dollar facilities are used by future freshmen and sophomore classes, coast leaders will try to take an active role in the search for a new USM president.

Gene Warr represents Coast 21. He said, "There is a large group of people down here that is very serious about this thing. There is no limit to what we will do to keep that voice being heard."

Dr. Fleming will oversee the USM campuses through August.