Over the past two weeks, the higher education landscape has seen a handful of shifts in school leadership. Several presidents who decided to hang up their cleats and move on were lauded for their accomplishments, while others… not so much. Some individuals decided to assume the presidency at another school, and one took a step down to pursue their dream job. Two nabbed the presidency for their first time, one of them being the first person of color at the school to do so.
Xavier A. Cole
Effective the first of June, the student affairs vice president at Marquette University, Dr. Xavier A. Cole, will become the president of Loyola University New Orleans. This will be the first time Cole assumes a school’s presidency, and it is Loyola’s first person of color and second layperson to take the helm at the 111-year-old Catholic university.
Cole led the Division of Student Affairs at Marquette for the past seven years and was recognized by his peers and students for his response to the pandemic and for cultivating an inclusive campus culture for first-generation students and those of color. He discovered his passion for student affairs first serving as a resident advisor and as a graduate hall director at Miami University Ohio, and he went on to develop his craft in a pair of institutions in Maryland.
Cole received his doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania where he studied the effectiveness of Jesuit universities in preparing future lay leaders. From 2017 to 2022, he was vice chair and director of the education committee on the board of Messmer Catholic Schools, a K12 network of Catholic schools serving Milwaukee’s north and west sides.
“We have found a real gem for our students in Dr. Cole,” said Robért LeBlanc, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee and Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees, according to a press release. “Throughout his career, Dr. Cole has been guided by Ignatian-influenced education ideals of fortifying the mind, body, and spirit.”
A trombone and euphonium player, Cole will most likely be found at Loyola University seeking permission to audition and play in the student orchestra pits and jazz bands. There’s no better place to greet the student body through jazz than New Orleans.
Daniel J. Ennis
First-time president Daniel J. Ennis will be leaving his current post at Coastal Carolina University as provost and executive vice president for a challenging position at Delta State University in Mississippi. The school’s last president was fired for witnessing a decline in enrollment and financial challenges.
Enrollment at Delta State has dropped 29% since 2014 and reversing that trend will be at the top of Ennis’ to-do list. In his time at Coastal Carolina, enrollment grew and their first-year retention rate bumped up 6%, totaling 73%, according to AP News.
A tenured professor of English, he has served in other administrative roles for the past 20 years.
Presidents picking up at new schools
While the jazz-playing Dr. Cole takes his talent to New Orleans, civil engineer Dr. John Nicklow is on his way out of The Big Easy to The Sunshine State. While this isn’t Nicklow’s first rodeo as a school president, he does share one important similarity: he is walking into Florida Tech with a student-oriented approach.
“One of the things that I do love, what we’ve done in New Orleans, is really become part of the community. And build long-lasting, lifelong relationships and partnerships,” Nicklow said, according to Yahoo.
Since 2015, Nicklow served as the president of the University of New Orleans. He was the first president to leave the school with a positive enrollment rate since Hurricane Katrina, and he was also the first president to lead a major comprehensive fundraising campaign in the school’s 65-year history.
Located in Melbourne, Fla., Nicklow’s extensive STEM research background is a sensible fit for the school on the “Space Coast.” He has published over 75 articles and four books, which have focused on advancing STEM education and optimizing environmental and water resources. He received his Ph.D. in civil engineering from Arizona State University.
Dr. Joseph Foy joined Alverno College as Vice President for Academic Affairs two weeks after the pandemic forced the school completely online. His accomplishments through adversity pushed him into the school’s interim presidency, and now it has landed him a full-time president position at Benedictine College. Foy’s accomplishments in building Alverno’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Belonging are what helped Foy stand out to Benedictine’s Board of Trustees.
“As the next president of Benedictine University, it will be my responsibility to help build upon a foundation of excellence while concomitantly helping to meet the future of an increasingly globalized and diverse world,” said Foy, according to Market Insider.
Foy’s other accomplishments at Alverno College include his philanthropy, where he deepened engagement with existing connections and opened new pipelines for grant-seeking opportunities. Before Alverno College, Foy served as Dean of the Faculty at Marian University in Wisconsin from 2018 to 2020. From 2014-2018, he led statewide enrollment and recruitment strategies as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Wisconsin Colleges.
The Benedictine president-elect holds a Ph.D. in American Government and Comparative Politics from Notre Dame, Indiana.
Presidents stepping down
Frederick G. Slabach
Frederick G. Slabach, president of Texas Wesleyan University, has accepted the bittersweet call to serve as dean of the University of Mississippi Law School, of which he is a graduate.
“I love Texas Wesleyan,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “But for [wife] Melany and me Mississippi is home. We are excited to the moon.”
“Being asked to return home to help lead my alma mater, one of the oldest public law schools in America, is a dream come true,” he added.
Since taking the helm in 2011, Slabach has helped the university reach new heights, including doubling endowment, increasing freshman applications by more than 280% and reinstating the football program after a 75-year hiatus.
“It was really a team effort,” the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. “No one person can take the credit. I am very proud that we have accomplished several things that will last after I’ve left. The biggest thing is the quality of instruction, along with increased size and diversity.”
While Slabach gets to walk out in the sunset, others didn’t get that privilege
Following concerns over growing crime at the Philadelphia university, Jason Wingard, the board of trustees accepted Temple University President Jason Wingard’s resignation on Tuesday. He was the university’s first Black president.
While the board did not specifically mention the reason for his resignation, his stepping down marks the end of his less than two-year presidency shadowed by high-profile campus crimes, a graduate-student strike and dwindling confidence from faculty members, The Wall Street Journal reports.
“While I am confident in my ability to pivot strategy and lead Temple through this crisis, I understand, and it has been made clear, unfortunately, that too much focus is on me rather than the challenges we seek to overcome,” Wingard said in a statement Wednesday.
His last day was Friday.
Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron will be stepping down at the end of the semester after facing criticism by students and staff over a planned fundraising trip to a controversial social club.
Scrutiny arose after students and staff became aware of the college’s decision to host an event at the Everglades Club in Florida. Students said the club has a racist past,” the Connecticut Mirror reports.
Students also protested after the school’s former dean of institutional equity and inclusion, Rodmon King, resigned. His decision came after the details of the fundraising trip surfaced, as well as the college’s treatment of students of color and LGBTQ students.
“Certainly, the road has not always been easy,” Bergeron said in a statement. “It never is, when the work is so important and the goals so ambitious. The past several weeks have proven particularly challenging, and as president, I fully accept my share of responsibility for the circumstances that have led us to this moment.”
Thomas K. Hudson
Following months of a no-confidence vote by the faculty senate, Jackson State University President Thomas K. Hudson is set to resign at the end of this month.
On March 2, the board of trustees for the state Institutions of Higher Learning placed Hudson on administrative leave but did not state why. However, according to the JSU faculty senate, they were uncertain whether the administration was promoting a “healthy, safe and secure environment,” the Associated Press reports.
They also cited issues surrounding his failure to consult faculty on decisions regarding curriculum changes. According to a statement, university faculty are calling for the “restoration of shared governance, transparency, accountability and academic democracy.”