New year, new president at West Liberty
WEST LIBERTY — West Liberty University’s new leader, W. Franklin Evans is finding his first days in office packed with introductions and meetings. Named the university’s 37th president on Nov. 19, Evans officially took the helm on Jan. 1.
Arriving from South Carolina, he is still getting settled in his new Hilltop home.
“It is definitely a challenge to relocate,” said Evans, who has amassed a quarter-century of experience in education. “But I’m excited about getting fully here and invested in the community.”
He is the first Black president in the school’s 183-year history and follows President Stephen Greiner who retired recently.
The father of two young children, he will reside in the official WLU President’s home, Colonial Heights. At the moment though, he’s staying at the alumni house, Liberty Oaks Bed & Breakfast, just next door while minor renovations are made to the home.
“From my prior experience, sometimes when you’re moving, you find people cordial but not friendly, but the people here seem to be truly friendly, not just cordial. It’s like Southern hospitality here in West Virginia,” he said. “People have even offered to unpack and unload my gear.”
Prior to joining WLU, Evans was the president of Voorhees College (South Carolina) and before that, he served as interim president of South Carolina State University, where he also served as the provost and chief academic officer.
Evans previously served as vice president of academic affairs at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Va. and formerly worked at Elizabeth City State, J.F. Drake State Technical College, Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, and Tennessee State University.
As he gets acclimated to WLU, its campus, employees and students, he said he has two overriding goals that he is addressing immediately.
“I’m concerned that our number one priority must be our students, not just our current students, but prospective learners. We must meet our enrollment goal and expectations,” he said. “I am also focused on keeping the university financially stable.”
As far as his educational background goes, Evans earned a doctoral degree in higher education administration from Georgia State University in 1994. He also holds advanced degrees in science curriculum and instruction from Georgia State University and earned bachelor degrees in both journalism and biology/entomology from Georgia State and the University of Georgia, respectively, in 1984.
Born in Augusta, Ga., he is active in the NAACP, Black Family Preservation Group, the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Sigma Pi Phi, 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 has already accepted a position on the board of the Ohio County Development Authority.
Additionally, he will be the keynote speaker for the Belmont County NAACP’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2021 on Jan. 18 in its virtual presentation.
WLU expects to welcome its students back to the Hilltop for the spring term on Jan. 19. Due to the pandemic, the first week of classes will be virtual as mass COVID-19 testing takes place for both students and employees.