Michael Williams has been named the sole finalist for the position of president at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, where he has served as interim president since December.
The Board of Regents named him the sole finalist Tuesday evening after UNT system Chancellor Lee Jackson recommended Williams to the board. Before the meeting, Jackson received a unanimous recommendation from the presidential search advisory committee to select Williams as president of the Fort Worth school.
Williams can be formally named president of the UNT Health Science Center later this summer, after a state-mandated waiting period of at least 21 days between naming finalists and making a permanent appointment.
“He’s a great guy. He’s got good business judgment and he has depth in his business thinking,” said Jack Wall, chairman of the Board of Regents and co-chairman of the search committee. “We’re looking forward to having him in place, and we think he’ll do a good job. ... We’re ready to watch him move forward.”
Before serving as interim president, Williams served as a UNT regent. He graduated in 1981 from the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, which is now part of the Health Science Center. A native of Fort Worth, Williams said when he was appointed interim president that he was excited to get back to his hometown and the campus where he attended medical school.
“The Fort Worth community has rallied in support of the school and supported me, as well as the faculty and staff,” Williams said. “We’ve done a lot of work together, and it’s been a great opportunity to share my thoughts and my message and my vision with the campus and stakeholders. That’s been fun. And I’m completely taken aback by the dedication people have for the school.”
Fort Worth City Council member Sal Espino, who served on the search committee, said Williams recognizes the need for continued community outreach and understands that Fort Worth needs the Health Science Center and it needs Fort Worth.
“I think with him as the new president, the outreach, communication and that partnership with Fort Worth will continue to grow and improve,” he said. “I liked that he had a broad base of business experiences and the fact that he had run a hospital. I liked that he had a [doctorate in osteopathic medicine] and [an] M.D. [degree], and I liked the fact that his roots are in Fort Worth. He was the complete package.”
Don Peska, dean of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and a member of the search committee, also noted that Williams’ Fort Worth roots were important, allowing him to make immediate connections and get to work as soon as he began in December.
Williams was appointed interim president after President Scott Ransom was fired Dec. 21, which Jackson attributed at the time to breakdowns in communication, trust and collaboration on key issues.
A letter from Wall to Ransom said he would be fired because of interference in the discussion of a study for a possible merger with UNT and ignoring and undermining the implementation of shared services between all UNT system campuses, according to Denton Record-Chronicle archives.
Peska said Williams helped get the center back to normalcy after the controversy.
“I think he demonstrated very genuine leadership in the past few months,” Peska said. “He brought a stability to this campus that we desperately needed after the events of December, and we could see how well he was being received by the community, faculty and students.”
Committee members said they were impressed with Williams’ background in business and health care, as he had served as CEO of Hill Country Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg and has a master’s degree in business administration and a master’s in health care management.
Also, since Williams had served as interim president for the spring semester, the committee strongly favored him before interviews began.
“Initially, probably half of the committee was ready for him to be named the permanent president — I won’t say they were ready to name him — but they certainly favored him,” Wall said.
There were 12 strong applicants considered for the position, Wall said, and the committee cut eight people before beginning interviews. One of the four remaining applicants dropped out the day before their interview, and the committee did not feel like the other two candidates were as strong as Williams.
“We could have advanced all three of them to the chancellor if we thought they were all equal, but the committee decided Dr. Williams was the best candidate for the job, so we only advanced him to the chancellor,” Wall said.
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.