Gov. Haley Barbour's four nominees to the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning reflect quality in experience and diversity, essential requisites in governing the fast-growing, inclusive university system.
The four nominees – banker Aubrey Patterson of Tupelo, corporate executive Robin Robinson of Laurel, law firm executive Bob Owens of Jackson and utilities vice president Ed Blakeslee of Gulfport – are the first class for the College Board chosen under a new structure approved by voters in the November elections.
The four each will serve 11-year terms. Blakeslee and Robinson were named from the Southern Supreme Court District, Owens from the Central District and Patterson from the Northern district. Each district will receive a staggered number of appointments until membership is evenly distributed.
Patterson, chairman and chief executive officer of BancorpSouth, is well known statewide for long-term support of education at every level. In Tupelo, he has been actively involved in helping maintain communitywide enthusiasm for public schools. He serves on the executive board of Mississippi's Public Education Forum.
Universities clearly would have an experienced and willing friend in Patterson. He is a former chairman of the University of Mississippi Foundation, and he has been deeply involved in the effort to develop cooperative academic and economic development programs between Ole Miss and Mississippi State University. He also led development of he Advanced Education Center on the University of Mississippi's Tupelo Campus.
Patterson, like Gov. Barbour, brings a wealth of national and international contacts and friendships to his new position through his recent presidency of the American Bankers Association – the highest position and honor accorded a member of the banking business in the U.S.
The other three nominees bring similar qualifications and enthusiasm.
The College Board, as the trustees' board is usually called, is the most valued appointment any governor makes. In the long term, it is the most important.
Unless unexpected disqualifying facts emerge, the Senate should make timely confirmation a priority and put the four nominees to work for their 11-year terms.