Nearly a year after naming then OU Law College Dean Joseph Harroz Jr. as the school’s interim president, the University of Oklahoma regents voted unanimously to remove the word “interim” from his title in a meeting Saturday.
Harroz was a finalist for the position during the closed-door search in 2018 when longtime President David Boren retired that led to James Gallogly’s hiring. The regents selected Harroz as interim president when Gallogly abruptly retired 10 months later, although Harroz previously said he would hold the position for at least 15 months.
“This is not just an enterprise,” Harroz said in remarks after his confirmation. “We serve the next generation of students and transmit knowledge. We create knowledge. We engage in creative activity. We serve society.
“What happens here is not ordinary, and what happens here matters.”
Harroz graduated OU in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and received a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1992 while on Boren’s congressional staff. He was the school’s vice president for executive affairs when Boren became president and later the school’s general counsel. He had served as dean of the law school for nine years before being named interim president.
Board Chairman Gary Pierson said Harroz insisted on an interim tag last year despite having the board’s support to take on the job immediately at a late-night meeting after Gallogly’s resignation.
“We think we’ve put a lot of thought into this, we’ve considered all perspectives,” Pierson said. “We haven’t taken this lightly. If we’ve said it once today, we’ve said it a dozen times: this is the most important decision we can make at OU.”
Athletic Director Joe Castiglione said in a news release Saturday afternoon Harroz is a “bright, visionary and transformational leader” and said his confirmation couldn’t come at a better time.
Saturday’s news comes a day after Harroz spoke at a different regents’ meeting about the likelihood, or uncertain nature of, athletics and a football season given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Castiglione said in the release he is excited and has confidence in Harroz’s leadership heading into the months ahead.
“We have great confidence in his leadership and are anxious to support him and his staff in every way,” Castiglione said in a news release. “On a personal level, I could not be happier for Joe. I have worked closely with him since I arrived on campus and count him not only as a very good friend, but also as a highly valued and respected colleague.”
Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis congratulated his counterpart on the appointment in a statement.
“There are many challenges ahead for higher education and we look forward with a shared purpose to working cooperatively and productively with Joe and his team for the betterment and advancement of Oklahoma,” Hargis said.