Michael S. Rao earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida and a Ph. D. from the University of Florida. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he served as a full-time higher education planner helping develop academic master plans for new campuses of the University of Washington and Washington State University, and in California. Rao served as dean of Mission College in California, 1992-1994, and as its president, 1994-1998. From 1998 to 2000, Rao served as chancellor of Montana State University Northern.
From 2000 to 2009, Rao served as the twelfth president of Central Michigan University (CMU). During his tenure at CMU, President Mike, as he preferred to be called, focused on developing CMU into a research-intensive university by expanding the number of master’s and doctoral degree programs. He worked to increase diversity, and the number of international students, and led the study to develop a medical school at CMU. President Rao tried unsuccessfully to elevate CMU into the upper tier of funding and recognition that the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University receives from the state of Michigan. After nine years at CMU, Rao resigned to serve as president of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, beginning on June 20, 2009. Michael Rao is married to Monica Rao, an artist and graphic designer. They have two sons, Miguel and Aiden. (This information is from the collection.)
Following President Mike’s resignation announcement, Kathy Wilbur was appointed by the CMU Board of Trustees as the Interim President of CMU, and as the first woman president of CMU. She served in this position from June 30, 2009 to March 1, 2010. Her successor, George E. Ross, is the first African-American president of CMU.