The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday to name G. David Gearhart as the Fayetteville campus’ next chancellor.
The 10-member board approved Gearhart, 55, after meeting in executive session for about 40 minutes.
“I pledge I will do all I can to provide an administration that has a combination of academic vision, inspirational leadership, a strong commitment to financial viability, a climate of openness and tolerance and acceptance of all peoples of diverse backgrounds that will accelerate the progress of the University of Arkansas,” Gearhart told the board after being selected.
Gearhart, the school’s vice chancellor for university advancement and an education professor, replaces John White, who retires June 30 after 10 years.
Gearhart said he looks forward to his new job and plans to increase resources for the school, raise diversity numbers among students and faculty and make the campus more “student friendly.”
Gearhart has served as a vice chancellor since 1998. A native of Fayetteville, he also is graduate of the university. He will be paid about $280,000 in his new position, university system President B. Alan Sugg said.
“He is just a tremendous leader and everything he has ever done has been first class. He knows how to make things happen,” Sugg told the board before its vote.
University officials credited Gearhart with guiding the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century, which raised more than $1 billion for the Fayetteville campus between 1998 and 2005. He has also worked for a Chicago-based consulting firm for charities and as a senior vice president for development and university relations at Pennsylvania State University and as a vice president of Hendrix College in Conway.
“He’s got this magnificent resume, a wonderful resume, and he’s one of us. How can you beat that?” trustee Jim Lindsey said.
White, 68, announced earlier this month he was resigning as the school’s chancellor and plans to return to the classroom full-time as an engineering teacher.
White, who attended Friday’s meeting, praised his successor.
“I feel very secure in the future of our university of Arkansas and its leadership. One of the best things I did as chancellor was bring Dave Gearhart back home,” White said. “He’s played a tremendous role in bringing us to where we are currently and I know he’s not content with where we are now and wants to continue to drive us toward excellence.
White is departing after a tenure marked by a increase in enrollment. But the outgoing chancellor fell short when it came to lobbying the Legislature to provide full funding. White also fell short of a goal to strongly increase minority enrollment at the university, which now sits at 2,383 out of a goal of 4,000 by 2010.
Gearhart inherits from White an athletic department beset by turmoil this year.
After athletic director Frank Broyles announced his retirement, White led the search that landed replacement Jeff Long. Football coach Houston Nutt left the school for Ole Miss after a season marred by disgruntled fans. Nutt received a friendly financial package from the school when he left, which White endorsed at Nutt’s farewell news conference.
The athletic shake-ups also included White’s firing of basketball coaches Nolan Richardson in 2002 and Stan Heath in 2007.
Gearhart said he hopes to be able to press lawmakers for more funding, but said it was unlikely the Legislature would see him on his knees.
“You know, I had a hip operation once so I’m not sure getting on my knees would be a good idea,” Gearhart joked. “It worked for Chancellor White, but not for me.”
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