The Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday hired Richard Linton to be the next president of Kansas State University.

Linton will become the university’s 15th president starting in January. Linton has served as the dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State since 2012.

“I’m just overwhelmed with excitement,” Linton said to an audience in Forum Hall Thursday. “I’ve been working for 27 years in higher education. To be able to be sitting in the chair like I am today, I’m incredibly excited, incredibly thrilled and I’m just ready to start the work.”

Linton’s first official day as president will be Feb. 14. He said his first order of business will be to “listen to a lot of people and learn about this organization.”

“The beginning piece of a role like this is really doing as much listening as I possibly can, and learning about what that path forward could look like,” Linton said. “So you’re going to see me on the road a lot, whether it’s walking across the street on campus, or getting in a car and visiting the Olathe and Salina campuses ... trying to get a full understanding and a full scope of what opportunities exist.”

Linton, 55, has a bachelor’s degree in biology, a master’s degree in food science and a doctorate in food science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Prior to his role as dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University, Linton served as department chairman of food science and technology at the Ohio State University and as a faculty member of the Department of Food Science at Purdue University from 1994 to 2011. While at Purdue, Linton was a founder and director of the Center for Food Safety Engineering and the associate director of agricultural research programs.

Regents chairwoman Cheryl Harrison-Lee said in a statement that she is “thrilled” that Linton will be the next president of Kansas State.

“Dr. Linton recognizes the changing landscape of higher education and how to move the university into the future,” she said. “He brings excellent experience building partnerships that leverage the power of a university to grow the economy.”

The Board of Regents approved hiring Linton during a special meeting in Forum Hall in the K-State Student Union on Thursday morning. Harrison-Lee said the search for candidates to replace outgoing president Richard Myers netted “a good pool” of people from across the country.

“We were very surprised at the diversity of candidates, in terms of talent and skill,” Harrison-Lee said. “We saw a good mix of people, and we feel like that’s a testament to the caliber of university Kansas State University is.”

Linton is married with two children, a daughter who will be graduating high school and attending college in the coming year, and a son who is a sophomore in high school. He said his family is “super excited” to move to Manhattan, and that he felt immediately welcomed into the community.

The board met Tuesday and Wednesday in Topeka in a closed-door meeting for most of the time, adjourning Wednesday evening after more than 10 hours of candidate interviews.

Regents spokesman Matt Keith declined to comment on how many people were interviewed, but The Mercury learned that the board spoke with five or six finalists via Zoom. The finalists did not include any internal candidates, sources said.

Manhattan city commissioner Usha Reddi, who was part of the presidential search committee, said it was a “very thorough” search and that she’s “very pleased” with the Regents’ choice in Linton. She said Linton was one of the search committee’s recommended candidates, and she felt validated by the Regents’ decision.

“It’s good to be part of Kansas State University and Manhattan today,” Reddi said.

Harrison-Lee said the regents feel a new president will bring a fresh perspective and new ideas at the right time.

“At this point, if there’s anything we’ve learned from COVID, it is that we must re-engineer higher education,” Harrison-Lee said. “The ability to hear from some candidates who are looking at trying to re-engineer and do things differently, based on what students and businesses are demanding, has really been very refreshing.”

The selection process for a new K-State president was a closed one, meaning information was not to be officially released about the job candidates until the board made its pick.

Myers announced in May that he planned to retire at the end of 2021. Myers, 79, is a retired four-star Air Force general and the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He became K-State president in 2016. In July, the board named the 25-member search committee, led by former CEO of BNSF Railway and K-State alumnus Carl Ice.

The search committee included Kevin Lockett, former K-State and NFL football player and businessman; Pat Roberts, former U.S. senator; and Gene Taylor, director of athletics at K-State.

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