Walker Named First Black President at Southern Illinois
Dr. James Walker, president of Middle Tennessee State University, will become the next president of Southern Illinois University. He is the first African American to hold the position.
Meanwhile, officials at Middle Tennessee say it will be hard to replace Walker.
“He certainly has done everything he said he was going to do,” says Rich Rhoda, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
Walker, 58, has been Middle Tennessee State’s president for nine years. During his tenure, the university increased overall enrollment by 28 percent, including a jump in minority enrollment from 6 percent to about 18 percent.
Middle Tennessee officials also say scholarship money has increased from $500,000 to $4.5 million a year; and several new buildings have been built in the heart of campus, some 35 miles south of Nashville.
The school had an enrollment of 14,677 last spring, most among the six regional universities in Tennessee under the control of the Tennessee Board of Regents.
Officials expect little trouble attracting applicants.
“When the search gets started, I think there will be a lot of interest from around the country,” says J. Stanley Rogers, a member of the Board of Regents. “It’ll take someone of considerable experience. Hopefully, we can get the right person.”
Ed Kimbrell, a journalism professor at the university, says he believes the kind of individual needed to keep the university moving forward exists.
“The harder question is, will we find him or her?” Kimbrell says.
Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Charles Manning says he will appoint an interim president for Middle Tennessee before Walker starts work in Illinois Oct. 1. He says the search for a permanent successor will probably begin in September and could take about six months.
Southern Illinois’ Board of Trustees voted unanimously last month to approve the appointment of Walker.
“The opportunity to come to Southern Illinois University and lead such a diverse institution with an outstanding history and vast potential is truly exciting for me. I am very much looking forward to meeting the challenges and opportunities that are ahead for me and for SIU,” says Walker.
He will succeed Dr. Ted Sanders, whose tumultuous five-year tenure as Southern Illinois president ended with his resignation in February.
Sanders had been a key figure in a dysfunctional period for the university that began in 1997 with heated contract negotiations with union faculty in
Carbondale, Ill. Tensions reached a peak last summer with the firing of
Carbondale Chancellor Dr. Jo Ann
Walker says replacing Argersinger will be among his first priorities. He added that he will leave matters such as the hiring of a new provost and vice chancellor up to his staff.
Besides an annual salary of $225,000, Walker will receive a yearly housing allowance of $27,500 and will be granted a tenured professorship. Going against protocol, the board also gave Walker a five-year contract in a gesture of confidence, Southern Illinois board chairman A.D. VanMeter says.
Walker was a finalist last year for
the presidency of the University of
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