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Former Ole Miss chancellor tells all in new book

Reported by: Tyler Hill
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Updated: 10/13/2013 9:53 pm
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) - He's known as many things, including a former college football all-star, an all-pro kicker for the Washington Redskins, a law professor, and perhaps his most distinguished title, former chancellor of the University of Mississippi.

Robert Khayat spoke about his book, "The Education of a Lifetime," at the Lee County Library in Tupelo on Sunday.

Khayat served as chancellor for Ole Miss for 14 years, and now he's telling all in his new book.

"I felt like the life I had lived was unusual enough that it ought to be written about," Khayat said.

A graduate of Ole Miss, Khayat returned as chancellor in 1995 in the wake of some unsettling problems.

"People only know the headlines," he said. "They don't know the back story."

A struggling state economy led to a decrease in building funds, enrollment rates were low and a problem that cringed the state for years remained prevalent, the issue of race.

"We had slavery," he said speaking about the state's history. "Then we had the Civil War, and then we had segregation and then we had Jim Crow Laws."

Khayat said following the race riots in 1962 brought on by the admittance of the university's first African American student, the university was labeled a "racist institution."

"We had to work hard to get black people to feel comfortable coming to Ole Miss," Khayat explained.

He said after he got a grasp on the situation, he quickly went to work by assembling his dream team.

Under his leadership, enrollment increased over 43 percent, with minority enrollment increasing nearly 80 percent, and operating budgets grew from 500 million to 1.5 billion.

"We went from one not really good place to a really good place," he said.

Khayat said all of his success at Ole Miss boils down to respect and a zero tolerance for mediocrity, which also happens to be the theme of his new book.

"I am not going to accept mediocrity," Khayat explained. "I refuse to accept mediocrity. We can do better than this."

He said with those two things in mind, what's achievable is just around the corner.

"That's what we did for 14 years at Ole Miss, and we truly made remarkable progress," Khayat said.

Khayat served as the 15th chancellor of Ole Miss from 1995 to 2009.

"The Education of a Lifetime" was released on Sept. 15.
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