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Mo. university president resigns to care for wife

University of Missouri system President Gary Forsee resigned on Friday to care for his ill wife, ending his leadership of the four-campus system after nearly three years.

School officials emerged from a 90-minute closed meeting to announce the former Sprint Nextel chairman and chief executive’s departure. He has been on an extended leave of absence since early December following his wife Sherry’s cancer diagnosis.

Forsee has been president of the four-campus system since February 2008. The longtime telecommunications executive is a graduate the University of Missouri-Rolla, now known as Missouri University of Science and Technology. He and his wife have two grown daughters.

Steve Owens, the system’s general counsel, will continue to handle Forsee’s duties as interim president until a replacement is chosen. Owens said he is not a candidate for the permanent job.

Forsee’s departure comes as state lawmakers returning to Jefferson City prepare to wrestle with a budget shortfall expected to result in the university system’s first tuition increase in three years. Forsee and Gov. Jay Nixon were the chief architects of a two-year tuition freeze for Missouri’s public colleges and universities in exchange for relatively modest budget cuts in higher education.

Warren Erdman, chairman of the university’s Board of Curators, credited Forsee with boosting the commitment to research and economic development, reorganizing the university health care system and generally bringing a more business-oriented approach to the Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla and St. Louis campuses.

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