- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 8, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday appointed three new members to the board of curators to help lead the embattled University of Missouri, making good on a pledge to circumvent the Legislature to fill vacancies on the board that oversees the university system.

Nixon appointed independent and former Ameren Corp. CEO Tom Voss, Democratic St. Louis Community College District general counsel Mary Nelson, and Republican former University of Missouri basketball star Jon Sundvold. He also reappointed Mizzou’s Gene Patrick Graham as student representative after senators didn’t confirm him during session.

The appointments will mean the nine-member board again is fully staffed but with few minority members in the wake of student protests last year at the Columbia campus over what some saw as administrators’ indifference to racial issues.

The board’s only two black curators as of November resigned earlier this year. Nelson is black and will also be the second female curator. Both Voss and Sundvold are white.

Nixon in a statement said the board now is “well-positioned to complete the task of selecting the next system President in the next few months.” November protests culminated with the resignation of former system president Tim Wolfe and Columbia’s former chancellor R. Bowen Loftin. Interim President Mike Middleton said he doesn’t plan to take on the job permanently.

Nixon’s appointments come weeks after the Senate adjourned, meaning appointees will serve at least until the Legislature returns in January and they’re up for Senate confirmation.

GOP Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard had said lawmakers would not confirm appointees to the board of curators until next year, when a new governor is in office and has the option to rescind appointees and suggest new ones.

Nixon, who is barred from seeking re-election because of term limits, in December 2014 appointed Nelson to the board of curators but withdrew the nomination after senators failed to confirm her. They cited concerns with how many attorneys Nixon appointed to the board.

She currently serves on the State Highways and Transportation Commission and graduated from the University of Missouri School of Law. She has had a diversity scholarship established in her honor to attract women and minority students to the school. Nelson did not immediately return Associated Press requests for comment Wednesday.

Both Sundvold and Voss said their primary objective is to find a permanent system president.

Sundvold, who is president and founder of a Columbia investment advisory firm and has two children who attend Mizzou, touted Middleton’s work so far and changes made after campus turmoil.

“I don’t think a university is a whole lot different than society,” Sundvold said. “There can be things that are an issue, but there can also be things that are blown out of proportion in any angle.”

Voss, who graduated from the Rolla campus and whose children also attended Mizzou, said he focused on addressing issues with diversity while at Ameren and hopes to offer insight to help the university.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, said it’s good to see diversity in gender and race on the board and said it’s particularly important “because of the climate that we are in right now, that we’ve been in for a long time.”

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