Gard­ner-Webb Univer­sity names East Car­olina dean as new pres­i­dent

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY BRUCE HEN­DER­SON bhen­der­[email protected]­lot­teob­

An East Car­olina Univer­sity dean will be­come the next pres­i­dent of Gard­ner-Webb Univer­sity, the North Car­olina school said last week.

Wil­liam Downs will be­gin his term as Gard­ner-Webb’s 13th pres­i­dent on July 1. He’s now dean of the Thomas Har­riot Col­lege of Arts & Sci­ences at ECU.

Trustees con­firmed Downs’ ap­point­ment on Feb. 7 after a year-long na­tional search to re­place for­mer pres­i­dent Frank Bon­ner, who an­nounced his re­tire­ment in Jan­uary 2018, ef­fec­tive this Jan. 31.

Trustee David Roys­ter III, who lead the search com­mit­tee, said Downs, a 51-year-old po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist from Raleigh, has both sig­nif­i­cant lead­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence and a deep un­der­stand­ing of higher ed­u­ca­tion.

“He has served as a fac­ulty mem­ber, de­part­ment chair, pro­gram di­rec­tor and dean,” Roys­ter said in a state­ment. “The board of trustees has faith that Gard­ner-Webb will thrive and con­tinue to pro­vide trans­for­ma­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents un­der his guid­ance.”

Trustees’ Chair Jen­nifer Mar­ion Mills cited Downs’ “aca­demic depth, sig­nif­i­cant lead­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence and vi­sion.”

Gard­ner-Webb is a pri­vate, Chris­tian, lib­eral arts univer­sity in Boil­ing Springs, a foothills town 50 miles west of Char­lotte. About 4,500 stu­dents at­tend the school.

At East Car­olina, where he’s been since 2014, Downs over­sees 16 aca­demic de­part­ments and 17 in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary de­gree pro­grams in the Col­lege of Arts & Sci­ences.

Downs served roles in­clud­ing area dean, de­part­ment chair, di­rec­tor and pro­fes­sor at Ge­or­gia State Univer­sity in At­lanta, where he worked from 1997 to 2014. He’s the au­thor of “Po­lit­i­cal Ex­tre- mism in Democ­ra­cies: Com­bat­ing In­tol­er­ance,” and has been a re­search fel­low at Har­vard Univer­sity, a grad­u­ate re­search as­so­ci­ate at the non­profit Carter Cen­ter in At­lanta and a Full­bright Re­search Fel­low in Bel­gium.

In a state­ment, Downs said he was at­tracted to Gard­ner-Webb by its “mis­sion and un­der­ly­ing val­ues, its peo­ple and pro­grams, and its rich tra­di­tions of ex­cel­lence. To­gether, we will have the chance to write a new chap­ter in the his­tory of one of North Car­olina’s great uni­ver­si­ties. I can­not wait to get started.”

Downs earned his bach­e­lor’s de­gree from N.C. State Univer­sity and his master’s and doc­toral de­grees in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence from Emory Univer­sity in At­lanta. He’s mar­ried and has two chil­dren.

Wil­liam Downs

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