Koubek choice draws praise

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Richard Koubek, left, talks with Michigan Technological University President Glenn Mroz shortly after being unanimously named Tech's 10th president at a special board meeting Friday. Koubek comes to Tech from Louisiana State University, where he was most recently executive vice president and provost.

HOUGHTON — Richard Koubek was a unanimous choice as Michigan Technological University’s 10th president at a special Tech Board meeting Friday.

Koubek comes from Louisiana State University, where he spent nine years, the past three as executive vice president and provost.

He will become president effective July 1, succeeding Glenn Mroz, who announced his retirement last year.

Prior to becoming provost, Koubek spent six years as LSU’s dean of the engineering college, expanding its undergraduate enrollment by 53 percent.

Achievements as provost included launching a strategic plan for LSU, which led the campus through a redesign of its course structure. He also increased research expenditures and led successful fundraising campaigns, including the $116 million expansion and renovation of Patrick F. Taylor Hall, now the largest engineering building in the country.

“Based on his background, his experiences and the strength of character that he brings forward … I believe that Dr. Koubek was born for this place, this position at this time,” said Board Chairman Terry Woychowski in a statement provided to the Gazette.

LSU President F. King Alexander said he had enjoyed working closely with Koubek both as engineering dean and as provost.

“He has done an outstanding job in helping to lead our campus, with specific highlights being the ‘Breaking New Ground’ campaign for the expansion and renovation of Patrick F. Taylor Hall and the development and launch of the LSU Strategic Plan 2025,” he said. “We will miss him greatly and wish him the best of luck.”  

Koubek had also worked at Pennsylvania State, where he headed the industrial and manufacturing engineering department; associate dean for research and graduate studies in Wright State University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science; and chair for Wright State’s Department of Biomedical, Industrial and Human Factors Engineering.

Prior to becoming an administrator, Koubek taught at Wright State and Purdue University.

He also holds bachelor’s degrees in Biblical literature, with a minor in chemistry, from Oral Roberts University and in psychology from Northeastern Illinois University. He received a master’s degree and Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Purdue University.

Born in Berwyn, Illinois, Koubek spent some of his youth in Farmington Hills, Michigan, before moving to Chicago.

Koubek was chosen from among four semifinalists chosen by Tech’s presidential search committee in February. All were from outside the university.

The selection of Koubek followed a months-long search process, which included more than 16 open forums and departmental meetings to gauge what personal qualities and experience they wanted to see in a new president. The 14-person search committee included faculty, staff, alumni and community members.

Bill Johnson, who was co-chair of the search committee, said Koubek possessed all the qualities the committee had sought.

“He has tremendous leadership skills,” he said. “He is a man of character, which we know is vitally important in any leader. He has significant vision for the university, and (can) build on the legacy that exists here to take the university to another level in the future.”

The identity of Koubek and the other three semifinalists, had remained closely guarded.

But Koubek’s mix of credentials impressed university staff in attendance, who gave him and his wife, Valerie, a standing ovation as they walked through the crowd to the front row.

“Like a lot of people, we’re all going to scatter right now and find out as much about him as we can, but from all indications I think it was a fabulous choice,” said Daniel Fuhrmann, chairman of Tech’s electrical and computer engineering department.

Brian Barkdoll, civil and environmental engineering professor and secretary of the Tech Senate, liked that Koubek has degrees in liberal arts and engineering, as well as teaching and research experience.

“He understands the pains we go through on a daily basis,” he said. “He comes from an institution we aspire to be like. So to me, we couldn’t get a better outcome in a new president.”

The Senate recently discussed the closed process for deciding among the semifinalists; non-binding Senate guidelines call for open forums with the candidates. Barkdoll said there would be an after-action review of the selection process so the Senate can recommend improvements.

“Not knowing was making everybody kind of speculate,” he said. “I think now that the person has been been chosen, and they can see this great background, I think all those concerns will settle down.”

In a statement, State Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, called Koubek an “outstanding candidate.”

“We are proud of Michigan Tech for their continued excellence on solving some of the world’s most complex problems and I’m proud of the work President Mroz has done to advance the university to such prominence over his tenure,” he said. “I have confidence that Dr. Koubek’s leadership will fulfill the university’s mission to create the future and continue to bring great pride to the Copper Country and abroad.”