Chancellor Morton Sets October Retirement

Provost Bichelmeyer to be Interim Chancellor; Morton taking post as COO of DeBruce Companies

Leo E. Morton, chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City since 2008, has announced that he will retire in early October.

After retiring from UMKC, he will serve as Chancellor Emeritus and assume the position of Chief Operating Officer at DeBruce Companies, a well-known Kansas City company with strong business and philanthropic roots.

“This is a unique opportunity for me to put my skills and experience to the highest and best use in service to a community I love, so I have moved up my scheduled retirement from UMKC to seize the day,” Morton said. “I wouldn’t be comfortable doing this if I did not have the utmost confidence in the UMKC leadership team to provide strong direction and management of the university in the interim. Kansas City’s university is in very capable hands.”

Mun Choi, president of the University of Missouri System, has announced that current UMKC Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara A. Bichelmeyer will serve as Interim Chancellor and Provost at UMKC.

“In his nine years of leadership, Chancellor Morton’s impact on UMKC and Kansas City has been stellar on so many levels,” Choi said. “We accept his departure with mixed feelings – regret that he won’t be with us as long as we hoped, but also with much gratitude for all that he has accomplished in his time at Kansas City’s university.

“I see UMKC as a university on the rise – and if we work together, UMKC will be an even stronger asset for our state, our University of Missouri System and all of our constituents, especially our students.  I look forward to what we can accomplish together,” Choi said.

Bichelmeyer, a Kansas City native, was appointed UMKC Provost by Morton in June 2015.

“For two years, I have had a front-row seat to observe how to provide effective, dedicated leadership for Kansas City’s university,” Bichelmeyer said. “As both a member of the UMKC community, and a Kansas Citian, I am profoundly grateful to Leo Morton for both his service, and his example. Our university enjoys a level of civic support that few urban research universities can match. That is the keystone of Leo’s legacy.”

During his tenure as chancellor of Kansas City’s premier urban-serving research university, Morton presided over a period of significant growth in enrollment, the university’s most successful capital campaign, creation of a strategic plan for diversity and inclusion, and a successful campaign to advance UMKC’s Downtown Campus for the Arts, one of the community’s Big Five civic priorities.

Morton was named UMKC’s chancellor on Dec. 15, 2008. Prior to assuming the chancellorship, he worked at Aquila Inc., joining the firm in January 1994 as vice president for performance management. He was named senior vice president in 1996 with responsibility for re-engineering, corporate procurement and environmental services. Morton assumed additional duties for the management of human resources in 1997 and information technology in 1998. He was named senior vice president and chief administrative officer in 2000 as he also assumed responsibility for additional corporate services. Morton’s management career spanned 40 years in a wide range of engineering and manufacturing positions with Aquila, AT&T Microelectronics, Bell Laboratories, General Motors, Rust Engineering Co. and Corning Glass.

Morton had been a UMKC Trustee since 2000 and was in his third year as chairman of the Trustees Board when he stepped down to serve as the university’s interim chancellor.

A highly respected longtime civic leader in the community even before being appointed chancellor, Morton was honored as “Kansas Citian of the Year” by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce in 2014. Over the years, his civic activities have included service with and for the Blue Valley School District, the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas City Area Development Council, Menorah Medical Center, MRIGlobal, Pembroke Hill School Board, Prep-KC, Starlight Theatre, Truman Medical Centers, the Union Station Board and Urban Neighborhood Initiatives.

In 2012, Morton received the Henry W. Bloch Human Relations Award from the Jewish Community Relations Bureau. At the ceremony, he talked about life as an eyewitness to the Civil Rights movement growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, as someone who not only survived the injustices of the time, but someone who went on to achieve the dreams his family had for him despite the obstacles he had to overcome.

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