On April 8, 2015, just days before he was to officially leave his post as president at Mississippi University for Women to become the commissioner of the state college board, Jim Borsig had a change of heart.
Borsig’s announced his decision to remain at MUW at a hastily assembled gathering at Poindexter Hall. The news was greeted with a prolonged ovation from about 300 students, faculty and staff.
On Monday, Borsig again addressed students, faculty and staff, this time announcing he will leave his post at The W at the end of the fiscal year in June.
The applause he received Monday was for a job well done.
Generally, when a leader leaves, only time can put that leader’s influence in proper context.
But there are some things we can say with certainly today, even as Borsig completes his last few months as president.
Over the past six years, MUW’s enrollment has grown. New programs have been added. Facilities have been added or upgraded. The school has regularly been noted as a “Best Value” university and consistently listed as one of the best universities to be an employee.
No doubt, many of the strategies adopted under Borsig’s administration will continue to reap dividends for the university and the community for years to come.
But it may be that Borsig’s greatest contributions are subjective.
He arrived at a time when the university seemed to be pulling apart — stagnant and divided, unable to agree on a direction, with no real vision for the future.
Those days of turmoil seem like an awfully long time ago now, which is probably the best measure of his success.
Borsig did what great leaders always do. He brought everyone together to work for a common goal.
Under his leadership, the factions dissolved, which allowed the MUW community to pursue the vision Borsig established — a private university experience at a public university cost. Borsig championed what MUW had to offer.
Some leaders achieve change through a fiery temperament, bending dissenters to their will, handing out marching orders, holding their subordinates to strict accountability.
Borsig was not that kind of leader.
His was a calm, reasoned voice. He was affable, approachable and a good listener. He built consensus and led from the ranks.
Never one to sit in his office and hand down edicts, Borsig seemed to be everywhere — playing mud volleyball with the students, attending programs or strolling around campus.
He did not confine himself to campus, either. He was an active member of the community, serving when called upon but often just being present, a face in the crowd, content to mingle.
Being the president at MUW never seemed to be about him.
The growth and success of the university over the past six years is a testament to Borsig’s steady leadership.
Almost two years ago, when Borsig first announced he would be leaving MUW for the college board, he noted regretfully that “a president’s job is never done.”
MUW will soon have another president and the work will continue.
New challenges will emerge — it is the nature of the job — but a lot of important heavy lifting has been done and the university is moving in a positive direction.
More than any other person, Jim Borsig is responsible for that.
That is his legacy.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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