The University of North Texas at Dallas is poised to get its third new president, an unconventional choice who steps in as the current president moves on to lead UNT’s growing health care programs.
Bob Mong, who retired in May as editor emeritus ofThe Dallas Morning News, is looking at a new title and challenge: university president.
UNT System regents named him the lone finalist Thursday for the UNT Dallas president’s job, replacing Ronald Brown.
Brown is being promoted to associate vice chancellor for academic affairs overseeing development and coordination of UNT’s health programs, including a new school of medicine offering an MD degree in Fort Worth.
Mong would be UNT Dallas’ third president, and the first without a traditional background in higher education.
“Being a college president has got to be one of the biggest leadership challenges out there,” Mong, 66, said Thursday. “The more I thought about it, the more excited I got about it, and I thought it would be a really meaningful second career.”
Brown, who has been UNTD president for two years, is a psychologist with experience running medical-related programs and institutions.
“I’m looking forward to leading the allied health programs for the UNT program,” Brown said. “I’m really excited to be at the forefront of educating and training young adults. There’s jobs for everybody in health care.”
Before joining UNTD, Brown was provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Wayne State University in Detroit. He was also dean of the College of Health Professions and Social Work and an interim dean of the School of Dentistry at Temple University in Philadelphia.
“I’m very familiar with all facets of health care,” he said.
The match between Mong and UNTD started in May with a newspaper article and a phone call.
Lee Jackson, the chancellor of the UNT System, read about Mong’s retirement from The News after a 46-year journalism career. One thing the article didn’t mention: Mong’s post-retirement plans.
Jackson called Mong and asked him to lunch. Over that meal and subsequent meetings, they talked about whether Mong might be interested in the UNTD gig.
Jackson spoke Thursday of Mong’s deep ties with the Dallas community, keen interest in higher education, and unusual management experience.
“He’s been not only a journalist, but a business leader for the corporation in a changing industry that has some similarities to higher education,” Jackson said.
“To keep adjusting what you’re doing in the face of a very competitive arena and maintain success and profitability is not a bad preparation for what we’re now discussing in higher education,” Jackson said.
“For the first time in hundreds of years, people have assumed that the business model of higher education was just one thing: You come and you sit in these desks for four years and you get this piece of paper. And every assumption is now up for grabs in higher education.”
The timing worked out because Jackson was also talking to Brown about a new role in the system that would build on his research and management strengths.
Brown is expected to start his new job Aug. 1. By state law, regents must wait three weeks until Mong can officially be named UNTD president. These next 21 days will be an audition period of sorts for Mong, Jackson said.
Mong said he plans to meet with everyone from faculty to staff to community leaders.
Jackson and the regents made an unconventional pick with Mong. And they’ve done it in an unusual way: They made the decision fairly quickly, without posting the president’s job, conducting a national search or forming a local search committee to help out.
Jackson he said he knows people will have questions. “I understand and I respect that,” he said. And he said that Mong knows Dallas and the importance of education and economic development in southern Dallas County.
“He is a thought leader,” Jackson said, “and he’s known and respected by community thought leaders.”
Staff writer Dianna Hunt contributed to this report.
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