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A Tiger takes the reins

Mizzou alumnus Tim Wolfe named University of Missouri System president

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  • Story by Karen Pojmann
  • Photos by Shane Epping
  • Published: Dec. 13, 2011
Tim Wolfe

The University of Missouri Board of Curators has named Tim Wolfe, BS BA '80, the new president of the University of Missouri System. The Columbia native and former software executive takes over Feb. 15.

For Mizzou alumnus and businessman Tim Wolfe, a new job as the president of the University of Missouri System means a long-awaited homecoming.

Wolfe spent most of his childhood in Columbia and was a star quarterback on the Rock Bridge High School football team. In 1980 he earned a bachelor’s degree from the Trulaske College of Business at MU, the university where his father, Joe Wolfe, served on the Department of Communication faculty for 30 years and where his mother, Judith Wolfe, earned a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and a law degree before eventually joining the faculty at the Massachusetts School of Law.

You might say higher education is in his blood.

Coming home

The 53-year-old former computer software executive acknowledges that his 30-year career path led him into the business world before winding back to a university campus — and his parents’ footsteps — but says he is “ecstatic and proud” about his new role and considers the UM System “the state’s greatest asset.” 

“I vividly understand the importance of higher education,” says Wolfe, “and I respect and admire the academy and all that it does.”

During a celebration at the Reynolds Alumni Center, Mizzou welcomed the True Son home to the University of Missouri family in a flurry of fanfare that included appearances by university officials, a Marching Mizzou pep band and a typically ebullient Truman the Tiger, who wasted no time endearing himself to Wolfe’s 16-year-old twins, Madison and Tyler — a potential third generation of Tigers in the Wolfe family. (For the twins’ mother, KU graduate Molly Wolfe, Tigers offered gentle ribbing.)

The Board of Curators’ choice of Wolfe as president wraps up an 11-month search that began when Gary Forsee stepped down from the role to take care of his wife, who had been diagnosed with cancer. In the interim Steve Owens, the system's general counsel, has served as acting president. “It’s a big job,” Owens notes.

Wolfe says he’s up for it. He will take over Feb. 15 following two months of research and meetings, a process he calls his “journey of enlightenment.”

Getting down to business

Tim Wolfe's family in attendance

UM System President Tim Wolfe comes from a family of Tigers and educators. His mother, Judy (left), is an MU alumna and a law professor. His father, Joe, was an MU communication professor for 30 years. His wife, Molly (center) attended KU, but Wolfe says that won't be an option for their children, twins Madison and Tyler. 

Wolfe has experience with innovation and leadership. He worked for IBM for 20 years, leaving in 2000 as vice president and general manager of the global distribution sector. After a three-year stint as executive vice president of the technology services company Covansys, Wolfe joined the Massachusetts software company Novell as president of the Americas. The company was acquired by Attachmate earlier this year, and Wolfe, like his colleagues, entered a state he calls “funemployment” before he received a call from Board of Curators Chairman Warren Erdman.

Wolfe plans to apply sound business sense to university leadership.

“We have to continue to find ways to creatively deliver high-quality education to more people at a lower cost,” he says.

He emphasizes his enthusiasm for leading the university system in a direction determined by the students, faculty, staff and alumni of the four universities rather than by external pressures.

“We need to chart our own course — not have somebody else chart our course for us,” Wolfe says. “If we do our job, our vision and our strategies will be so compelling that we’ll attract the support and the financial resources from the state, from businesses, from alumni and donors to fund our growth.”

His plans include extending the use of technology, increasing research, identifying new revenue streams for the university system and working with business and government leaders to create an economic-development agenda that will help create jobs in Missouri.

For now, though, he's just glad to be home.

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Last updated: Feb. 22, 2012