High-profile alum Brigham to lead MUW in interim

COLUMBUS – Allegra Brigham, chief executive officer of 4-County Electric Power Association, will be Mississippi University for Women’s interim president, the state College Board decided Friday.
Brigham, who serves on the Mississippi Economic Council board and on the Memphis Branch board of the Federal Reserve Bank, is an “almost perfect choice,” said Blake Wilson, chairman of the MEC.
MUW President Dr. Claudia Limbert will retire in June, and Brigham will retire at the end of June from 4-County. She became the first woman in Mississippi history to head an electric cooperative when she became CEO in March 2003.
A 1969 graduate of MUW with a master’s in 1972, Brigham coincidentally was an active member of a committee Limbert formed in 2008 to select a new name for MUW. That effort fell flat when the Mississippi Legislature declined to discuss it during the 2010 session.
“It is real exciting to have the opportunity to end my career at MUW,” said Brigham, 62. “MUW brought me to this area and it has provided me with a strong foundation with which to launch and build my career in this area.”
Brigham is expected to serve until a permanent replacement is hired, although officially that timetable is uncertain. She said she will not apply for the permanent position.
A former MUW director of public relations, Brigham managed 147 employees at 4-County. She said she’s benefited from creating strategic plans and managing budgets.
“It has helped me develop a team-oriented management style I think will fit well,” she said Friday after the announcement.
The College Board met Friday morning on the Columbus campus specifically to select an interim leader for MUW.
IHL recently announced plans to launch presidential searches for MUW, Alcorn State and Jackson State.
IHL Commissioner Dr. Hank Bounds was upbeat about MUW’s future when he was asked why anyone would want the MUW job, with all its challenges, such as declining enrollment and finding its place in the eight-university public system.
“I think that is an invalid perception,” he answered. “This is a viable university for this part of the state. We’re going to survive.
“Let’s quit looking at this place like it’s going away.”
He said Brigham’s choice came as the answer to questions about what type person MUW needs to lead it right now.
Bounds said Brigham brings extensive business and community experience to the job. “We’re going to have to run like a business for the next few years,” he said. “We need to think differently.”
Bounds told the audience he will establish a campus advisory committee to begin the MUW president search. The committee will include alums, students, faculty and community members.
“I would like to think we could move more quickly, if we only had one opening,” Bounds said. “It’s not likely with three openings, so it’s going to take a while.”
Chris Kieffer contributed to this story.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal