When Ole Miss invests Jeff Vitter as Chancellor this week, it is a moment for all who live and live the the goodness our flagship university brings to the state and beyond to celebrate, together.
We have a legacy of excellence from our contemporary chancellors, and Vitter undoubtedly has the leadership, skills and vision to match up well with that list of heavy-hitters.
Porter Fortune was a warm, smart heart when a warm, smart heart was needed. Gerald Turner knew Ole Miss could rise far beyond Mississippi, and was unflinching in his commitment to position the University as a national player.
Robert Khayat was our heart and soul. Dan Jones was we-can-do-this empowering.
Jeff Vitter is his own man, just like those who have served before him. So you won’t be able to put him into a cookie cutter predictability. He’s not going to flash Robert’s All-American embrace, and he’s not going to wear three-piece suits like he is parading on Wall Street.
But his talents are special, including an engaging intelligence and facts-based pragmatism that combines with a tech-based growth mentality that will lead Ole Miss to great heights from the foundation our former leaders have established.
Some people speak first. Vitter listens first, and last. And, he processes, like a computer, making computations to determine the best moves.
Vitter also empowers, putting decisions into the hands of vice chancellors, while providing coach-like guidance along the way.
Jeff is quite comfortable in social media, a realm he studies and embraces first person. Those tweets you see? He follows social activity about Ole Miss and Mississippi seven days a week, and he follows different personas. He reads tweets. He reads emails. He responds. He engages, and there’s no team doing it all for him.
It’s just Jeff.
Vitter also happens to be quite comfortable in his own shoes.
That can mean a pair of Birkenstock sandals, like I saw him wearing with shorts and an Ole Miss t-shirt when dining with family members for pizza at St. Leo on a mid-Sunday afternoon. Or, it can mean some cozy Rebel navy blue tennis shoes, paired with gray slacks and a collared short sleeve blue shirt when greeting friends in his suite at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium before a daytime football game.
He’s not the glad-hander to run the crowd at a cocktail party, though he will have a beer and quietly work the crowd, dishing out positive comments that show he’s supportive and paying acute attention. Mostly, though, he will listen, and process, like a computer, ready to spit out results at the right time.
Vitter’s record as a provost before coming to Ole Miss was head-turning and there is every indication that his style fits well to the needs of this university. He is inclusive, and and wants to create a world-class environment in which all students can flourish and greatness can also emerge.
He’s the right man for the job at Ole Miss, ready to lead the University to its next chapters as a great American institution of higher learning.
We can all embrace his investiture as a moment to celebrate. Ole Miss is a proud institution with a wonderful legacy.
And the best is yet to come.