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WLU welcomes candidates for its next president

Contributed PRESIDENT SEARCH — West Liberty University has announced the four finalists in the search for the university’s next president. They are, from top, clockwise, Melinda Arnold, W. Franklin Evans, Michael Victor and Jay Gatrell.

WEST LIBERTY — West Liberty University’s Presidential Search Committee has announced the names of its four final candidates, all of whom will visit campus over the next few weeks.

“I am pleased to announce the four finalists for the next President of West Liberty University. We look forward to introducing these leaders to our campus community and to the public as we begin the final steps in the process of finding a president,” said Rich Lucas, who is the chairman of the Search Committee and also the Board of Governors.

The national search for a president resulted in more than 70 applications. Two are current college or university presidents, the other two are vice presidents.

¯ Dr. Melinda Arnold serves as provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at Montana State University Billings, a regional comprehensive university serving 4,400 students. She has led the Academic Affairs unit at MSUB since October of 2018 where she is responsible for overseeing instructional programs, educational policy, academic planning, and academic resources.

She facilitates the largest budget at MSUB and 166 full-time faculty in five colleges, including an embedded two-year college.

She also leads and manages academic support units including the Library, Office of Graduate Studies, Grants and Sponsored Programs, Office of International Studies, Academic Success Center, Institutional Research, Assessment and Accreditation, eLearning, Advising and Career Services, Academic Senate, Honors Program and the Montana Center for Inclusive Education.

Prior to MSUB, Arnold served as interim associate provost at University of North Texas at Dallas (UNT Dallas) and as executive director of the Caruth Police Institute at UNT Dallas where she developed and implemented professional development leadership training for law enforcement.

She has served in various capacities at other higher education institutions including associate dean at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

In addition, she is a twice-tenured professor of criminal justice. Arnold also has extensive experience working in the criminal justice system, as deputy director of Dallas County Probation (Texas) and director of policy and planning at the New Jersey State Parole Board.

She was born in New York, but spent much of her childhood in Houston, Texas and earned her undergraduate degree in philosophy at the University of Texas. She then went on to earn two master’s degrees, one in liberal studies at Northwestern University and a second in criminal justice at Rutgers University. She also earned a doctoral degree in criminal justice at Rutgers.

Her work in the area of offender reentry and parole has been well-published and a second edition of her book on offender reentry will appear in 2021. Arnold visits campus on Nov. 1-2.

¯ Dr. W. Franklin Evans is the current president of Voorhees College and has 25 years of experience in education. Prior to being named president, Evans served as interim president of South Carolina State University (SCSU), in Orangeburg, S.C., where he also served as the provost and chief academic officer.

Under his leadership at SCSU, enrollment exceeded its goal and fundraising increased by 687%, alumni support improved, and the university achieved a balanced budget. He is an experienced fundraiser and grant writer.

Previously he served as vice president of academic affairs at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Va., where he was instrumental in leading the institution through a successful reaffirmation of accreditation and establishing an Honors College, along with both a bachelor’s of fine arts and master’s in education degrees.

He also has worked at Elizabeth City State, J. F. Drake State Technical College, Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, and Tennessee State University.

In 1994, Evans earned a doctoral degree in higher education administration from Georgia State University. He earned a degree in journalism, middle childhood education, curriculum and instruction, as well as administration and supervision from Georgia State University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in entomology from the University of Georgia in 1984.

He was born in Augusta, Ga. and is active in the NAACP, Black Family Preservation Group, the National Association of Black School Educators, and Toastmasters International and has served on the boards of the Sickle Cell Association, Boys and Girls Club, Kiwanis Club International and the AIDS Action Coalition. He is an ordained elder with the Church of God in Christ. Evans visits campus Oct. 29-30.

¯ Dr. Jay Gatrell has served as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Eastern Illinois University since July 1, 2017. As chief academic officer, he is responsible for academic and senior-level internal leadership and represents the president in his absence, working with and coordinating the team of senior staff responsible for achieving the university’s goals identified by the president and the board of trustees.

Prior to this position, he was vice provost at Bellarmine University from 2014 to 2017 and was responsible for sponsored projects, study abroad, veteran’s affairs, homeland security, institutional research and effectiveness, development initiatives, biosafety and compliance, among other things.

Before joining Bellarmine, he held appointments at Indiana State University and Wright State University. He was selected and served as an American Council on Education Fellow at Bellarmine in 2012-13.

An economic geographer with interests in human environment interactions, he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Eastern Michigan University, as well as graduate degrees in geography from the University of Toledo and West Virginia University (Ph.D.).

Gatrell grew up in Northern Michigan and is proud to be a first-generation college graduate and he has family in the Weirton area. He is anxious for an opportunity to return to the Mountain State. Gatrell visits Nov. 4-5.

¯ Dr. Michael Victor is president of Mercyhurst University, Erie, Pa., a position he has held since Aug. 1, 2015. Prior to that, he served as dean of Mercyhurst’s Walker School of Business from 2002 to 2006 before accepting the presidency of Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, a position he held for nine years until returning to Mercyhurst.

As Mercyhurst president, he has achieved significant growth in fundraising and online academic initiatives. He has increased the efficiency of administrative and academic operations and created cyber security, risk management and data science programs. His administration launched the Erie Innovation District, designed to transform downtown Erie into a hub for jobs in the digital economy.

During his tenure, he led the renovation of the student dining hall, the main floor of the library and an upgrade to the Mercyhurst Ice Center. He also spearheaded construction of the $2 million MCPc Cyber Education Center and the $25 million sophomore residence, Ryan Hall. In 2019, he announced the $9.5 million Campaign for Mercyhurst Athletics.

He holds a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pa. and a juris doctorate from Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh. He began his professional career as an attorney in the corporate law department of MacDonald, Illig, Jones & Britton in Erie.

From 1988-2000 he was co-owner and CEO of Pyramid Industries in Erie and he is co-chair of the Victor Group, a metals manufacturing company.

Born in Ridgway, Pa., he is a member of the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, Rotary Club of Erie, and United Way. He serves on the Duquesne University School of Law Advisory Board and the UPMC Hamot Board of Directors. Victor visits Nov. 9-10.

After the candidates visit campus and meet with alumni, staff, students, faculty and the public, the search committee will meet and evaluate the campus interviews.

The committee then presents its final recommendations to the Board of Governors, who makes the final selection and forwards the name to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission for its seal of approval.

WLU expects to have a president on board in time for the spring semester, which begins on Jan. 19, 2021.

President Stephen Greiner announced his intended June 30, 2020 retirement in November 2019 but agreed to stay on due to the pandemic at the request of the Board of Governors.

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