New UW-La Crosse chancellor focused on future, serving needs of the state

James Beeby takes over chancellor role from Joe Gow, who was fired from the position in December

James Beeby smiles outside of a campus building
UW-La Crosse Chancellor James Beeby said he’s focused on getting to know the campus and community after starting on July 1, 2024. Hope Kirwan/WPR

The new chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse says he’s focused on “turning the page” after a tumultuous six months for the university.

Chancellor James Beeby became UW-La Crosse’s 11th chancellor on July 1, replacing Joe Gow. Gow was fired in December following the discovery that he made and distributed pornographic videos online. 

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Beeby said he plans to assuage concerns from donors and alumni about the shake up by focusing on the university’s positive impact on students and the community.

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“Turning the page, focusing on the future, and making sure that we are really responding to the needs of the state,” Beeby said. “And I think we tell our story. The story from this institution is amazing: our retention rates, our graduation rates, the quality of our academic programs and the fact that we’re a welcoming campus to so many different students from all over Wisconsin.”

Beeby, who most recently served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Keene State College in New Hampshire, said his first priority as chancellor is to get to know the campus and the La Crosse community. 

People walk by a sign that says "University of Wisconsin La Crosse"
People walk on the sidewalk near UW-La Crosse on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. Angela Major/WPR

He said he met with La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds during his first week on the job and spent the July Fourth holiday and weekend visiting local businesses. Beeby said he would like to see UW-La Crosse build strong partnerships with the city, businesses and civic organizations as a way to meet the needs of the state.

“To me, it is making sure that we’re serving the needs of the state, that we’re making those community connections all over, that we really are helping,” he said.

Beeby said he’s most looking forward to meeting students when the fall semester begins in September. He said he hopes to become known as the “walking chancellor.”

“I don’t want to spend much time in my office. I need to be out and about, walking across campus,” he said.

A native of England, Beeby said La Crosse’s recent rainy weather has been familiar to him. In the coming weeks, he said he hopes to visit some of the communities around La Crosse and try his first cheese curd.

Beeby declined to comment on the next steps in an effort to remove Gow from UW-La Crosse’s faculty, saying the matter was a “personnel issue.” 

A faculty committee is still considering whether the university has sufficient reason to remove the former chancellor from his faculty position two weeks after holding a hearing.

The committee’s recommendation will go to Beeby, who will then decide whether to recommend Gow’s firing to the Universities of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.