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Southern picks its new system president

BATON ROUGE (AP) — The Southern University System chose its new president Friday, selecting Ronald Mason Jr., who has been the leader of Jackson State University in Mississippi.

A Southern spokeswoman confirmed that the university system’s governing board selected Mason from three finalists.

Mason, 57, a lawyer, has been Jackson State’s president for 10 years, after spending 20 years at Tulane University in New Orleans.

‘‘Jackson State University has seen a great transformation under Dr. Mason’s guidance. His courageous leadership will be missed,’’ said Alan W. Perry, one of 12 members of the state College Board in Mississippi. ‘‘Academic programs have gotten stronger, the university’s facilities have dramatically improved and research opportunities have increased. He has a bright future, and I wish him all the best.’’

He will leave JSU at the end of June.

Mason came under fire recently after pitching an idea to legislators and alumni to ‘‘unify’’ JSU with the state’s other two historically black universities, creating a renamed, consolidated school. He received a sharp rebuke from black lawmakers and supporters of historically black colleges. Mason said the idea was never officially proposed or meant to be public.

The Southern University System oversees three academic campuses, a law school and an agricultural center.

‘‘Ron Mason is the perfect candidate to lead the SU System,’’ Tony Clayton, chairman of the Southern University Board of Supervisors said in a statement. ‘‘He has a unique grasp of the mission of land-grant universities and a passion for that mission. He also brings solid experience in advancing public institutions.’’

Mason will replace former President Ralph Slaughter. Slaughter’s contract ended in June, but he’s tied up in several lawsuits with the university. Kassie Freeman, who didn’t apply for the permanent job, has been working as interim president of the system since Slaughter left.

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