BATON ROUGE – Jackson State University President Ronald Mason Jr. soon will begin negotiations on a start date and salary for his new position as head of the Southern University System in Louisiana.
The system’s governing board overwhelmingly favored Mason to become its president in a 14-2 vote Friday. He had been considered the front-runner going into final interviews.
“Like all HBCUs, it’s clear Southern has many challenges,” he said following the board’s vote. “We have a lot of work to do.”
During an interview that lasted more than 30 minutes, Mason fielded questions about his position on mergers, his allegiance to historically black colleges and universities and his plans for dealing with budget issues.
Tony Clayton, chairman of the Southern University System board, said he was impressed with Mason’s record at Jackson State.
“We think we got a first-round draft choice,” he said.
Leonard Haynes III, a senior adviser in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education and a Southern University alumnus, received two votes for the job.
Former Alabama A&M President Robert Jennings also interviewed Friday.
Mason is expected to step down June 30 from JSU’s top position, a position he’s held for more than a decade.
During his tenure, Jackson State’s enrollment has increased more than 25 percent. The university now boasts 8,785 students.
JSU alumnus Deshun Martin said he considers Mason a friend. “I think his leadership has been visionary. His intentions have always been good.”
Though a salary has not been set at Southern, Mason is expected to make more than the $270,500 he has received at JSU.
The Southern system includes three academic campuses, a law school and an agricultural center.
In his president’s blog, Mason posted a letter to the JSU community on Thursday evening, saying that he planned to take the position if offered.
“Southern is a challenge we did not seek. In many ways, it sought us,” he wrote.
Mason had been asked to submit his name for consideration in early April, after a first round of finalists were picked. The Southern system allows candidates to apply until a final decision is made.
Here is a piece of a press conference he had soon after Governor Barbour’s push to merge 2 other HBCUs in Mississippi into Jackson State.