By Rhiannon Saegert
Steve Mills is retiring a few months earlier than anticipated after 13 years as the University Center of Southern Oklahoma’s president and CEO.
Mills became CEO in September 2004, and has overseen the move from the old UCSO building on Veterans Boulevard to the new facility on Mt. Washington Road.
“It’s just gradually grown over its lifetime and it’s changed,” Mills said. “In the beginning stages, the universities came over here and sent teachers to offer classes. We still do that, but I think there’s been a significant evolution.”
Mills said in that time, the center gained more faculty members who taught strictly at the school. The original building didn’t allow for much office space, something they were sure to address with the new facility.
“In the other building there was all these additions over the years, but never any office space for faculty,” Mills said. “When we built this building, we structured this like it was going to develop like a college campus.”
Mills said he’s hopeful for the future of the center, despite the departure of East Central University’s nursing program last year and decreased enrollment for several semesters.
“I think… there’s a sense things are going downhill, but we’ve got a new building and even though we completed it, at this time, to me, everything is an opportunity,” Mills said. “I just see it as a great challenge for this to really grow and blossom into an economic driver in this community.”  
After UCSO, Mills will serve as the executive director for Southern Oklahoma Development Association’s Durant branch. He originally intended to leave this June.
“This job opportunity came up, so I asked the board to amend my request for retirement to February 28.”
Mills said nonprofit work is new territory for him, but he’s looking forward to it.
“I decided to retire from education and I thought about what I’d like to do next, because I’d like to work for a few more years,” Mills said. “Just like education, in nonprofit, you work for a cause.”
Board members Gary Farabough, Gary Greene and Kevin King are serving on an appointed committee working to find an interim CEO to replace Mills once he leaves in February. Currently, no one has been selected.