The Regional University System of Oklahoma board named former Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb as the president of the University of Central Oklahoma this morning. Lamb will assume office beginning July 1 and will replace Andrew Benton, who was approved as interim president in January.
After a national search, the RUSO Board of Regents interviewed finalists for the UCO president during a special meeting Wednesday morning, ultimately choosing Lamb.
“I know first-hand how UCO changes lives. Oklahoma is a better state, and I became a better citizen, because of UCO,” Lamb stated in a UCO press release. “The Regional University System is crucial to our state’s future and UCO has a role to play as a leader within that system. I thank the RUSO board for a thorough search process. I look forward to the opportunity to serve the students and work with faculty and staff to continue to grow UCO, especially in workforce-critical areas like aerospace, business, technology and engineering.”
While the press release noted that Lamb “attended a number of classes at UCO,” Lamb earned his bachelor of arts from Oklahoma State University and his juris doctor from Oklahoma City University. Lamb began his career as an assistant to Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating before joining the U.S. Secret Service. While serving the Secret Service from 1998 to 2002, Lamb was appointed to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, where he worked as an investigative lead for the 9/11 inquiries. Additionally, he served on protection details for President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton.
After serving in the Secret Service, Lamb went on to represent U.S. Sen. Don Nickles as an agricultural field representative throughout northwest Oklahoma.
In 2004, Lamb was elected to Oklahoma State Senate District 47 in Edmond. In 2010 and 2014, Lamb was elected lieutenant governor of Oklahoma. He finished third in the 2018 Republican primary for governor, receiving only 2,494 fewer votes than eventual Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Lamb, who became a co-host of KFOR’s Flash Point talk show in 2019 and who joined the McAfee & Taft law firm in 2021, did not return a phone call seeking comment prior to the publication of this article.
Earlier this month, Lamb’s former State Senate colleague, OKC Mayor David Holt, was named dean of the Oklahoma City University School of Law.
UCO recovering from budgetary issues
In recent years, UCO has faced significant budget shortfalls. In May 2022, then-president Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar announced the university was eliminating 30 vacant staff positions in an attempt to address a $15 million budget deficit.
At that time, UCO also requested that the RUSO Board of Regents approve a tuition increase of 3 percent, or $6.82 per credit hour. The university’s enrollment has decreased nearly 20 percent since 2018, partially exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors.
In the press release announcing Lamb’s hire, RUSO Board of Regents Chairwoman Connie Reilly praised the former politician’s financial acumen.
“Lamb’s experience in financial management will be an asset to the university’s commitment to fiscal responsibility and exploring new fundraising avenues,” Reilly said. “He understands the vital role UCO plays in creating our state’s workforce.”
Neuhold-Ravikumar announced her resignation in October 2022. Her resignation was effective Jan. 31, 2023.
In addition to candidates for the UCO presidency, the RUSO Board of Regents also interviewed final candidates for the Northeastern State University presidency at Wednesday’s special meeting.
NSU, Langston University, Redlands Community College and the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma currently have presidential openings. In September, Redlands and USAO announced a partnership that includes academic collaboration and joint administrative positions, which has spurred discussion of whether the college and the university in western Oklahoma could ultimately share a president.