West Liberty University announces four finalists for presidency

West Liberty University’s presidential search has come to an end, and the Presidential Search Committee announced the names of the final four candidates on Oct. 20. The next president could potentially be one of the following four candidates: Dr. Melinda Arnold, Dr. W. Franklin Evans, Dr. Jay Gatrell, or Dr. Michael Victor.

West Liberty’s Media Relation Specialist, Maureen Zambito, sent out a press release with all the information regarding the presidential candidates and their backgrounds.

The search that was reopened in September resulted in more than 70 applicants, which was eventually cut down to the four listed above. Of the four, two candidates are currently presidents at a college or university, while the other two are vice presidents or provosts.

Dr. W Franklin Evans will be the first candidate to visit campus between Oct. 29 – 30. Evans is the current president of Voorhees College, and was the interim president of South Carolina State University, also known as SCSU, in Orangeburg, S.C. He also served as the provost and chief academic officer at SCSU. In combination, Dr. Evans has acquired 25 years of experience in education. SCSU has outdone their enrollment goal under the leadership of Evans, and fundraising increased by nearly 687 percent. Evans has extensive experience in fundraising and grant writing, and as a result, the university achieved a balanced budget.

Evans earned a bachelor’s degree in entomology from the University of Georgia in 1984. Nearly 10 years later in 1994, he went back to Georgia State University and earned his doctoral degree in higher education administration, as well as a degree in journalism, middle childhood education, curriculum and instruction, and administration and supervision.

Dr. Melinda Arnold will be the second candidate to visit campus between Nov. 1 – 2, and currently serves as provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at Montana State University (MSUB). Leading the Academic Affairs unit since October of 2018, Arnold has overseen instructional programs, educational policy, academic resources, and academic planning.

While Arnold was born in New York, she spent the majority of her childhood in Houston, Texas where she later went on to earn an undergraduate degree in philosophy at the University of Texas. Pursuing two master’s degrees, Arnold earned one in liberal studies at Northwestern University and the other in Criminal Justice at Rutgers University. She later decided to pursue a doctoral degree in criminal justice, again, at Rutgers University.

Dr. Jay Gatrell will be the third of the four candidates scheduled to visit campus and his visit will take place during Nov. 4 – 5. He is currently the provost and vice president of academic affairs at Eastern Illinois University. He is in charge of both academic and senior-level leaderships by repressing the president when he is absent. He works with and coordinates a team of senior staff who are responsible for achieving the goals for the university that are set by the president.

Northern Michigan raised and a proud first-generation college graduate, Gatrell earned a political science degree from Eastern Michigan University and later earned graduate degrees (Ph. D), in geography from the University of Toledo and West Virginia University.

The fourth and final candidate, Dr. Michael Victor, will visit campus between Nov. 9 – 10, and currently serves as the president of Mercyhurst University.

Being president since Aug. 1, 2015, he has achieved several initiatives in fundraising and online academics by increasing the efficiency of administrative and academic operations. He has led many renovations on Mercyhurst’s campus, including renovation to the student dining hall, the main floor of the library, and the ice center.

Victor earned a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude, highest distinction, from Saint Vincent College. He then earned a Juris doctorate degree from Duquesne University School of Law.

Upon visiting campus and meeting with the alumni, staff, students, faculty, and public, the candidates will be further evaluated by the search committee.

West Liberty student, Baylee Gittings, shared her thoughts on the candidates coming to campus saying, “I like that the candidates are going to come to campus and get to talk to students.”

The Board of Governors will make the final selection for the next president of the university, after the search committee presents their final recommendations. The name of the selected president is then forwarded from the Board of Governors to West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (WVHEPC) to receive a seal of approval.

West Liberty University’s current president, Dr. Stephen Greiner announced his plan to retire in June of 2020 back in November of 2019. However, with COVID and the Presidential Search being postponed and reopened, The Board of Governors asked him to remain president to which he agreed.
Many staff and students have been waiting with anticipation to learn who the next president of West Liberty will be. “I’m glad that we’re finally making progress choosing a new president. I feel like this search has been going on forever,” said WLU sophomore Kelsey Stewart.

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

This article was cultivated by the previously mentioned press release by Zambito. For more information on the four candidates or the presidential search itself, please email Zambito at [email protected] By clicking on the link to Zambito’s press release, more background information can be found about each candidate. To look at the complete CV’s of the four candidates, visit westliberty.edu/blog. The itineraries for all four candidates are in The Trumpet this week and can be found on pages 4 and 5.