Kirk Schulz, the president of Kansas State University, has been chosen as the next president of Washington State University.
Schulz was announced as the new president during a March 25 meeting of the WSU board of regents in the Tri-Cities.
Schulz replaces Elson Floyd, who died of colon cancer in June 2015. Floyd was well-regarded by farmers for his commitment to agricultural research.
Representatives of Washington’s agriculture industry said they were happy with the regents’ choice.
“This is a win for WSU, for the state of Washington and agriculture,” said Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission. “He’s extremely well-qualified, good leadership experience. (He) will be able to carry on what President Floyd started and really help to build WSU in many ways.”
Schulz is coming from the nation’s first land-grant university, according to Kansas State.
Squires believes Floyd’s emphasis on agricultural research will continue under Schulz.
“I’m sure he understands the land-grant mission, coming from a land-grant school,” Squires said. “We’re excited to have him.”
“It’s good to see the university moving forward with its leadership transition,” said Jon DeVaney, president of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association. “We are pleased to see it’s someone familiar with the land-grant university environment.”
DeVaney’s organization, the Washington Apple Commission, Washington Fruit Commission and Northwest Horticulture Council spoke out in October to ensure that their industry’s voice would be considered in the selection process.
DeVaney said the organizations urged the search committee to select someone who would reach out to key agricultural stakeholders in a manner similar to Floyd to maintain WSU’s services and partnerships.
“We’re looking forward to meeting with him and building that same kind of relationship,” DeVaney said. “We are optimistic we will be able to work with President Schulz in his new position.”
“The agricultural community could not have done any better on the search,” said WSU interim president Dan Bernardo, provost for the university and former dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. “He certainly has a great reputation as a transformational leader at Kansas State University.”
Bernardo previously worked at KSU, and said he was hearing “impeccable” reports on Schulz from contacts at the university in Manhattan, Kan.
“Coming from Kansas State, where agriculture is the number one industry in the state, I’m sure he has great rapport with agriculture, and I’m sure he understands agricultural research and its importance to any state and the land-grant university’s role in providing research and information to agricultural producers,” Bernardo said.
Justin Gilpin, CEO of the Kansas Wheat Commission in Manhattan, Kan., said Schulz has been a “good friend and supporter” of production agriculture and research initiatives to benefit stakeholders, while working to find funding for research.
“President Schulz was willing to be creative when we needed to find ways to fill positions that were very depended upon by wheat farmers of Kansas,” Gilpin said. “I believe (Washington wheat farmers) are going to get a strong leader. I hope we are able to replace him with somebody who supports agriculture research like he did.”
WSU entomology associate professor Richard Zack was the representative for CAHNRS on the advisory committee for the presidential search. Zack said he and the committee considered Schulz’s experience with a land-grant university.
“He’s an engineer — he’s not an ag person, necessarily — but he comes from a background and certainly a state where agriculture is very important,” Zack said. “You use the term ‘total package,’ and that’s kind of a cliche, but he really did have that.”
Zack said Schulz had “the background we believed was going to be important for a state like Washington, where ag and certain high-tech industries are very important. Washington is a very different type of state — with a populated area, the agriculture, the east side, the west side — and he had an appreciation for all of that.”
During WSU’s search for Floyd’s replacement, CAHNRS Dean Ron Mittelhammer replaced Bernardo as interim provost. CAHNRS Executive Associate Dean Kim Kidwell filled in for Mittelhammer as acting dean.
Bernardo said Schulz will likely finish the semester at Kansas State before taking over at WSU.