Porter is named to fill in at MSI post
The selection comes as the institute searches for someone to permanently fill the director’s position. Porter temporarily replaces Lee Fuiman, who announced several weeks ago that he was planning to leave the position to take over as director of the institute’s Fisheries and Mariculture Laboratory (FAML).
Porter, who also was named acting chair of the Department of Marine Science, officially starts his new job today, Thursday, Sept. 1.
Joan Holt is retiring as director of FAML, but Porter has asked her to serve as associate chair of the Department of Marine Science academic program.
Porter, 70, is a professor emeritus from the Univer- sity of Oklahoma. There, he served as vice president for technology development and dean of the College of Engineering. He left the university in 2007.
Porter was president of the Houston Advanced Research Center from 1985 to 1998. The non-profit organization’s Web site said the center is “dedicated to improving human and ecosystem well-being through the application of sustainability science and principles of sustainable development.”
After retiring from OU in 2007, Porter moved to Austin to be close to his children and grandchildren, he said in an interview with the South Jetty. After his move, an old friend of his, John Watson, asked Porter to join the UTMSI Advisory Council. Watson was president of the body. Porter ended up serving for a couple of years.
As acting director, he said he plans to spend about half of his time in Port Aransas and half of his time in Austin as he leads an effort to find a permanent new director. He said he’s excited about the coming work.
“In my judgment,” Porter said, “this (institute) is a real jewel for UT and for Texas and, indeed for the nation, and it ought to be the leading marine science institute for the Gulf of Mexico. Its designation as a NERR (National Estuarine Research Reserve) is another visible opportunity to leverage off the national recognition.”
Porter said he already has met with UTMSI faculty and staff.
“I just find there is a very nice cross-section of talent here,” he said. “We’ve got a good group of folks excited about what we’re doing.”
Porter said he hopes to provide UTMSI with “a much closer link to the main campus in Austin.”
“It’s easy for the faculty there (at UTMSI) and the staff there to feel like, well, we’re down in Port Aransas, and no one in Austin knows what we’re doing,” Porter said. “With the role I’ve agreed to take on as associate dean of the College of Natural Science, there’s a direct link between the dean’s office and MSI. While I’m acting director … I’m hoping to provide a real connection and expedite issues. There has to be communication between Austin and Port Aransas.”
Porter will lead a committee in the nationwide search for a new director. The committee is composed of UTMSI advisory board members, junior and senior faculty and a graduate student.
Porter estimated it to be 15 to 21 months before a new director arrives, if someone is hired from outside the institute.
Fuiman’s departure drew remarks from David Laude, interim dean of the university’s College of Natural Sciences.
“As director, Lee Fuiman led the effort to position UTMSI as one of the best institutions for marine research and education in the country,” said Laude said.
“I thank him greatly for his work. Skip Porter will continue that charge as he recruits more top faculty and searches for a new director for the institute,” Laude said in a news release issued by the university. “This is an exciting time for growth for UTMSI.”
Fuiman “worked to build strong programs and has supported a very talented group of faculty, staff and students at the Marine Science Institute, and I look forward to working with these folks and our community,” Porter said in the news release.
“While the search progresses, we will continue the goal to make UTMSI the premier research and education institute for the Gulf of Mexico,” Porter said .
The release said Porter “will continue to support the institute’s collaborative community and build upon the institute’s excellent relationship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”
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