West Liberty University to Welcome Four Candidates for its Next President





WEST LIBERTY – West Liberty University’s Presidential Search Committee has announced the final four candidates to become the university’s next leader. These candidates will visit campus over the next few weeks.

“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, chairman of the search committee and also the university’s 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.

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 there since October 2018 where she is responsible for overseeing instructional programs, educational policy, academic planning, and academic resources.

Prior to her time in Montana, Arnold served as interim associate provost at the University of North Texas at 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 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.

W. Franklin Evans is the current president of Voorhees College and has 25 years experience in education. Prior to being named president, Evans served as interim president of South Carolina State University 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.

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.

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 2014-17 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.

Michael Victor is president of Mercyhurst University in Erie, a position he has held since Aug. 1, 2015. Prior to that, he served as dean of Mercyhurst’s Walker School of Business from 2002-06 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 from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and a law degree 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.

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.

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


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