Khayat on Leadership


Great leaders often serve at a pivot point in an organization’s history. A great leader is truly the right person at the right time in the right place. I am always impressed by leaders who are reluctant to serve, but through time and circumstance are pressed into service. Some of the great leaders in history were people who weren’t seeking glory or fame, but were willing to serve when called. As a student of leadership, I’m always looking for opportunities to visit with great leaders and learn from their experiences.

Robert C. Khayat, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Mississippi, is one of those leaders. Chancellor Khayat, the recent recipient of the Mississippi Technology Alliance’s 2010 Legends Award, is well-known for his leadership at Ole Miss from 1995-2009. As a law professor at the University, he was considered for the role as Dean of the Law School, but that was not meant to be. Soon thereafter, when Gerald Turner retired, Khayat’s name resurfaced as a potential candidate for the Chancellor position. He was reluctant to consider the opportunity, but as fate would have it, he was appointed the 15th Chancellor of the state’s oldest university. His many accomplishments during his leadership included the creation of the Sally McDonnell Honors College, The William Winter Institute of Racial Reconciliation, the Croft Institute for International Studies, and the establishment of a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society. In addition, he led the first major capital campaign in the school’s history raising more than $900 million during his tenure, and hosted the 2008 Presidential debate which brought worldwide attention to our state.

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