EXCLUSIVE: UH VP Morton leading candidate for interim president - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: UH VP Morton leading candidate to be university's interim president

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The leading candidate to be interim president of the University of Hawaii is longtime UH executive John Morton, who's currently UH's vice president for community colleges, sources told Hawaii News Now Friday.

A task group of three members of the UH Board of Regents is expected to recommend Morton for the temporary job during an executive session behind closed doors at the regents' next meeting Thursday, a source said. 

"It would not be appropriate for me to comment on whether I am or am not a candidate for interim president while the process is going on," Morton told Hawaii News Now Friday afternoon. 

Morton became chancellor of Kapiolani Community College in 1984 and served in that role for more than 20 years before being elevated to his current position.  Before going to KCC, he was dean of instruction at Leeward Community College.  He started his UH career at LCC as a faculty member teaching chemistry and political science. 

As of May 2012, Morton was paid $228,360 as vice president for community colleges, according to UH records.  His salary increased on July 1 of this year, when UH ended pay cuts for executives and many other employees, but it's not clear what his current salary is. 

Other interim president candidates with university ties include:

  • David Lassner, UH's vice president for information technology.
  • Former UH Vice President for Student Affairs Doris Ching
  • Former Interim Dean of the College of Tropical Agriculture Sylvia Yuen, who's a special assistant to UH President MRC Greenwood. 

From off-campus, sources said the recently retired commander of the Army in the Pacific, Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski (pronounced were-ZIN-skee), has applied for the UH president's job.  

Wiercinski retired after 34 years in the Army July 2. He'd been in Hawaii for the last several years and was in charge of 80,000 soldiers and thousands more civilian employees throughout Asia and the Pacific.

UH's chief academic officer, Linda Johnsrud, has decided not to apply for the interim post but is applying to be the permanent university president, a source said.  That's because the regents have said they will not consider the interim president for the permanent job, to give all permanent candidates a fair shake. 

Johnsrud has been at UH for 25 years and is the school's second-in-command as executive vice president for academic affairs. 

The interim president is expected to serve as long as six months or a year or more, while a search is under way to replace Greenwood, who is stepping down Aug. 31. 

At next week's Board of Regents meeting, sources said retired diplomat John Holzman is expected to be elected chairman of the volunteer board.

Greenwood has already started cc'ing Holzman on important emails, sources said.  Holzman is chairing the search committee charged with hiring Greenwood's replacement. 

Holzman will replace business executive Eric Martinson, whose term as Board of Regents chair has just ended. 

Holzman served as U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh and charge d' affaires in Pakistan.  

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