Who Is Mike Middleton? The Interim University Of Missouri System President Had Several Firsts At Mizzou

A new president of the University of Missouri System was named on Thursday. The new University of Missouri System interim president is Mike Middleton, a former civil rights lawyer and Mizzou faculty member. Middleton was selected to be the university system's interim president by the University of Missouri's Board of Curators after Tim Wolfe resigned on Monday following protests from students over racial tensions on campus. The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that Middleton will be the second black president of the history of the University of Missouri System.

Prior to being appointed to his interim position on Thursday, Middleton has been serving as deputy chancellor emeritus and a professor emeritus of law at Mizzou. He also once worked as vice provost for minority affairs and faculty development. Donald Cupps, chairman of the Board of Curators, stated in a written comment that "Mike Middleton is the best person to lead the system during this critical period of transition, with 30 years of leadership experience on the MU campus and past service as a civil rights attorney," according to The Columbia Tribune. Commenting on his new role as interim president, Middleton stated,

I am honored to accept the appointment as interim president of the UM System, and lead our state’s premiere university during this extraordinary time. The time has come for us to acknowledge and address our daunting challenges, and return to our relentless adherence to the University of Missouri’s mission to discover, disseminate, preserve and apply knowledge.

Middleton has a long history at Mizzou and made history there a couple of times as well. The Columbia Missourian wrote on Thursday that Middleton enrolled at Mizzou in 1964, and later went on to become the first black student to graduate from the school with a law degree who had also enrolled as a freshman and graduate student. He was also the first black student that Mizzou admitted to their law school. As a student, Middleton was a member of the committee that hired the school's first tenured black professor, Arvarh Strickland.

Additionally, Middleton was one of the founders of the university's Legion of Black Collegians, a group that presented a list of demands to the university to increase representation of people of color in the university, including hiring more black faculty.

After practicing civil rights law in Washington, D.C. following his graduation from law school, Middleton went to teach at Mizzou's law school, making him the first black professor of law at the university.

As a lawyer, Middleton worked for the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, where he was a trial attorney. He also directed the Office of Systemic Programs at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and later served as principal deputy assistant secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Middleton was then director of the St. Louis district office of EEOC until 1985, when he joined the faculty at Mizzou's law school.

Concerned Student 1950, the group behind the protests at Mizzou throughout the last several months said on Twitter that they are excited that Middleton will serve as interim president of the university system, and that they want students to have a say in who will fill the position permanently.