NORMAN — Joseph Harroz Jr., dean of the College of Law at the University of Oklahoma, was named interim president following a six-hour board of regents meeting that stretched from Thursday night into Friday morning.
Harroz, who was a finalist for the position last year when it was given to the now retired James Gallogly, will begin his term immediately. During that time, the presidential search process will begin, and Harroz will be eligible to take the job permanently, OU Regent C. Renzi Stone said.
"I am honored to have this new opportunity to serve the institution that I love. Together, we can unite the OU family and build on our tradition of excellence to make OU better than ever," Harroz said. "We are committed to building a far more diverse and inclusive OU; nothing else we do will succeed unless we accomplish real change, together. We have to continue building a culture of integrity and be good stewards of our resources so that we can focus on our mission."
Harroz holds the record for longest tenure as OU general counsel, 12 years from 1996-2008. He served as legislative director and legal counsel for then-Senator David Boren, who would later become OU president and bring Harroz to campus.
"His nationally recognized leadership of the OU College of Law and his many years of service as vice president of executive affairs and general counsel give him an unequalled understanding of OU," Leslie Rainbolt-Forbes, chair of the board of regents, said.
Harroz spent his first day on Friday meeting with students, faculty and university organizations. A more public unveiling for the new president will be next week.
Blake Douglas, summer news editor with the OU Daily, caught some of Harroz's comments during a student meet-and-greet at the Oklahoma Memorial Union. Harroz addressed questions about incidences of racism on campus and the university's response, something his predecessor faced criticism over earlier this year.
"Any time there is racism that takes place ... we have to be clear in our values and who we are so that when it happens we don't simply sit back and say 'We're against that,'" Harroz told the crowd.
"We have to be able to create a culture and a community with students leading it."
Harroz has been the dean of the OU College of Law since 2010. He is an OU alumnus with a bachelor's degree in economics with a minor in zoology.
He received his juris doctorate from Georgetown University, which took him to Washington D.C. where was hired onto Boren's staff on Capitol Hill.
Harroz traded a job with the Oklahoma City-based law firm Crowe and Dunleavy for vice president of executive affairs at OU in 1994. Two years later, he became the university's general counsel.
During a 14-year period with OU, Harroz also taught as an adjunct professor and an advisory board member for the OU College of Law. His expertise is employment law and health care law.
Harroz became president of Graymark Healthcare, Inc. in 2008 until he was appointed dean two years later.
Under Harroz, the OU College of Law has risen in prominence. Last year, it was ranked 63rd in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and its moot court team won first place at the national championship.
Its bar exam passage rate for first-time exam takers was 95 percent last year, and the college was ranked in the top 10 for best value law schools by the National Jurist magazine.
"In his eight years as dean of the OU College of Law, Joe has proven himself an effective leader and administrator with a collaborative leadership style that helped the school achieve distinction in virtually everything it does -- from rankings, student success and being best-value, to volunteerism, fundraising and innovation."
Gallogly, who was president for less than a year, surprisingly announced his retirement Sunday following OU commencement weekend. He cited a "false narrative" surrounding the decisions he has made -- such as program cuts and getting rid of administrative officials -- and an ongoing personnel investigation as reasons for stepping down.
In the early Friday announcement, Rainbolt-Forbes took time in her statement to acknowledge Gallogly's work.
"Tremendous progress was made in the last year thanks to President Gallogly," she said. "Over $47.5 million in cost-savings were identified; tuition was held flat at the same time granting much overdue pay raises to our deserving faculty. Our university is in a better place today because of Jim."