Limbert set to retire as MUW leader

By The Associated Press

COLUMBUS — Mississippi University for Women President Claudia Limbert says the one constant of her tenure at the college has been to look forward.

“I don’t think I have any regrets about anything,” Limbert told members of the editorial board at The Commercial Dispatch this week.

“I don’t think it does much good looking in the rearview mirror. We’re looking ahead,” she said.

Limbert’s first order of business was to help the university recover from a tornado that ravaged the campus just months after she began her tenure as the 13th president of Mississippi University for Women.

The $13.5 million Pohl-Stark recreation complex opened its doors in 2007 — complete with indoor pool, racquetball courts, a 5,000-square-foot strength and conditioning room, a student gathering area, an auxiliary gym and meeting rooms. It replaced the Emma Ody Pohl gym destroyed by the November 2002 storm.

The Art and Design Building, damaged in the same storm, was dedicated in 2009, after $6 million in repairs and renovations.

Both buildings were part of a $45 million master plan for the campus.

When she announced plans to change the school’s name, the effort was anticlimactic.

After a year and a half of meetings and research to arrive at the proposed name, Reneau University, the issue never made it to a vote in the Legislature. And the College Board — who endorsed the name-change study — never took the matter up.

“I never had a clear sense that it would succeed or would not succeed,” Limbert said of the name change.

She said she knew it “needed to get done.”

She thinks the name will remain a challenge for the school.

“It will come back. And it will continue to come back until it is changed,” she said, noting lawmakers know the change is needed.

“Privately, they understand the need for a change; publicly, they need to do something about it,” she said.

Limbert cut the university’s ties with its more than century-old MUW Alumnae Association.

Limbert claimed the former MUWAA — now called Mississippi’s First Alumnae Association since they’re banned from using The W’s names and symbols — was undercutting the university’s fundraising efforts and trying to get her fired.

Since the 2007 disaffiliation, the old group and the new Limbert-formed MUW Alumni Association have failed to unify under a joint set of bylaws. But they’ve come together recently as Friends of The W to support the school remaining an independent entity and to raise money to offset state budget cuts.

Limbert said she sees the alumni reuniting.

“And I think we’ll be the stronger for it,” she said.

As proposals to merge MUW with Mississippi State and to consolidate programs with East Mississippi Community College have emerged, Limbert has taken them in stride.

“You’ve got probably the best university in the Southeast sitting right here,” Limbert said. “This needs to be a full-service, stand-alone university. I prefer to look at it as, we have 125 years history, and we have 125 years future. Because we’re not going anywhere anytime soon.”

Limbert will leave MUW on June 30.

The next president will need to be patient, with a head for business, an understanding of academics and good social skills, she said.

“A good sense of humor wouldn’t hurt either,” she said.