Brandon Dutcher highlights for the Martin Center a new innovator in higher education.

A strong executive with a proven track record, though lacking a typical background in academia, is selected as president of a large public research university in America’s heartland. Quickly identifying waste, inefficiency, and high overhead costs, he implements common-sense operating efficiencies to lower costs while freezing tuition for students. He casts a bold, innovative vision for the university’s future.

No, it’s not Purdue president Mitch Daniels. It’s the new president of the University of Oklahoma.

When widely admired OU president David Boren retired this year after nearly 24 years at the helm, the regents didn’t turn to a conventional candidate from the academy. Instead, they unanimously selected 65-year-old James Gallogly, an OU alumnus and highly successful corporate executive. …

… Gallogly wasted no time getting started. Even before he officially took the reins on July 1, he presided over the June 19 Board of Regents’ meeting and made it known that OU needed to “get our house in order.” He said the university is losing $36 million a year and total debt is approaching $1 billion at the Norman campus. …

… His first day in the office, Gallogly fired six high-ranking administrators before lunchtime. He announced an executive restructuring which reduced his number of direct reports by nearly a third. “When our university strives to be more efficient and cost-effective, college can remain within the reach of more students,” he said. “During this time of change, we will continue to focus on academic excellence, student success, employee engagement, and efficiency. These first steps are needed to help maintain current tuition levels and work toward faculty pay raises.”

The weeks that followed continued to bring refreshing change. As he studied OU’s budget, Gallogly said, he found “surprise after surprise,” including millions of dollars in expenses that were not “properly accounted for.”