Springfield, MO

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MSU hires former OTC exec as West Plains chancellor

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Longtime higher-education executive Shirley Lawler is making history at Missouri State University.

Lawler decided to come out of retirement to accept the chancellor position at MSU’s West Plains campus. She’s the first woman in the role, according to an MSU news release.

“We had a number of strong candidates for the chancellor position,” said Matt Morris, chairman of the search committee and vice president for administrative services on the Springfield campus, in the release. “Shirley quickly rose to the top.”

Lawler previously worked as provost and vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at Ozarks Technical Community College before retiring in 2012. Her career at OTC began in 1997.

Lawler has agreed to compensation of $162,000 and benefits including residency in the chancellor’s home, access to the West Plains Country Club and funds to host university events, according to the release. Her appointment is pending approval by the MSU Board of Governors during its next regular meeting, scheduled May 17.

If approved, she’ll succeed Chancellor Drew Bennett, who announced in August that he would retire this spring.

The move would be a homecoming of sorts, as Lawler served as an adjunct instructor at MSU from 1984-2002. She also worked at Logan-Rogersville High School for 12 years prior to joining OTC, according to the release.

“Missouri State University-West Plains offers affordable and accessible educational programs to the constituents of south-central Missouri,” Lawler said in the release. “For many first-generation college students in the region, Missouri State-West Plains is their open door into higher education. I’m excited to lead the campus in continuing to meet the education and training needs of the area.”


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