Kristen Dragotto, A&E Editor

On March 21, the University of MissouriSt. Louis held a news conference announcing Chancellor Tom George’s retirement, effective Sept. 1 of this year. In addition to the chancellor’s retirement his wife, Dr. Barbara Harbach, will be retiring from her position as curator’s distinguished professor of music, chair of the department of music and director of the School of Fine and Performing Arts, which will also be effective Sept. 1. 

Bob Samples, the associate vice chancellor for University Marketing and Communications, sent a media inquiry email the morning of March 21 stating that an announcement would be taking place at noon on the 3rd Floor Rotunda in the Millennium Student Center hosted by University of Missouri System President Mun Choi. The email stated that an announcement would be made regarding a major leadership change and would be discussed by George and encouraged all of campus to attend.

Despite the short notice, faculty, staff and students packed into the rotunda waiting to hear the announcement. The murmurs and voices that filled the student center quickly quieted when the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Kristin Sobolik stepped up to the podium to begin the meeting. Sobolik began with the statement that the conference’s purpose was both “meaningful and historic in its impact for the university and the people who make it so great.” 

After the introductions, George announced his retirement from his position as chancellor from the university stating, “For the past 16 years, my wife and I have had the privilege to serve at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. We’ve found the work rewarding and the people outstanding – all individuals dedicated to the betterment of the region and themselves. That’s what makes it so hard to announce that Barbara and I will be retiring from our respective positions.” George revealed that he and his wife have made no set plans for their retirement but ensured that the university and St. Louis will remain a part of their lives.

Harbach spoke after George, keeping her speech short. She expressed her gratitude in having the opportunity to work at the university for the last 16 years. Harbach ended her speech by stating, “I thank you all for making us so welcome and we carry you in our hearts.” 

Following George and Harbach’s speeches were three speakers, Choi, Director of Office Diversity and Inclusion Deborah Burris, and retired CEO of Express Scripts and leader of the Chancellor’s Council George Paz. All three speakers expressed their gratitude to both George and Harbach. Choi stated in his speech, “As UMSL’s longest standing chancellor, Dr. George has truly transformed lives through his work. I am grateful for his contributions to UMSL and the UM system. In his 16 years at UMSL, he has made a lasting impression on the St. Louis region and the entire state of Missouri.  We are indebted to him and Dr. Harbach for their service and wish them well in retirement.” 

After the conference ended, George said, “UMSL is a fantastic institution and it has been a privilege to serve it for the last 16 years.  The students, faculty and staff are all fantastic.” 

The conference was more than just an announcement of retirement, but a tribute to the chancellor’s passion for carrying out the mission that UMSL has founded itself on. 


Photo Credit: August Jennewein