Friday, July 8, 2011

Four candidates for University of Arkansas president

Posted By on Fri, Jul 8, 2011 at 11:04 AM

UA CANDIDATES: From left, Donald Bobbitt, John Churchill, Frank Oldham, Stanley Reed.
  • UA CANDIDATES: From left, Donald Bobbitt, John Churchill, Frank Oldham, Stanley Reed.

By golly, Dr. Carl Johnson, the chairman of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, has done it. He's led a search that produced four applicants for the job of president of the UA System, to succeed the retiring B. Alan Sugg.

All have Arkansas roots.

Two former University of Arkansas trustees mentioned here before are applicants: banker Frank Oldham of Jonesboro and Marianna farmer/lawyer and former Arkansas Farm Bureau president, Stanley Reed. Oldham has a UA Ph.D. Reed went to UA undergraduate and law schools.

There's also John Churchill, an Arkansas native and Rhodes scholar and former Hendrix College faculty member and interim president who's now CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society in Washington. I might as well mention it before someone else does — he's brother-in-law of Skip Rutherford, dean of the Clinton School of Public Service. But before you start conspiring on that, please note that Skip is also very close to Stanley Reed. Churchill is the sole candidate with no time as a student on the UA campus, having schooled at Rhodes College and Yale.

Finally, there's Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt, provost of the University of Texas at Arlington, who is a UA grad and former dean of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at UA. He has a UA bachelor's degree.

Academic credentials galore in this bunch and enough Arkansas connections to insure that, as ever, the process will have its political elements. Given that the choice will be made by a 10-member board of people appointed by the governor on account of their political clout, it could be no other way.

But Johnson was right. You COULD get people willing to apply publicly for this job and go through the interview process, even though they might not be selected in the end. These are not called "finalists," for whatever that's worth. A spokesman said no other applications were received in this stage of the process except these four. In an earlier stage of the process, when John Ed Anthony was board chair, some applications were received and announced, but none was invited for a board interview. Anthony talked of difficulty in getting applicants.

Full release follows. This link takes you to a page with bios and links to application letters and resumes.

Private interviews with the board will be Wednesday and Thursday in Little Rock. Candidates will meet with media after.

Personal disclosure: I once ran an article in the Arkansas Times by Dr. Churchill about — woo pig — his family's pet pot-bellied pig. I met him in 1971 at a college track meet in Tennessee. We both threw the discus, he about 35 feet farther than I.


Four candidates have applied and will be interviewed for the position of president of the University of Arkansas System.

The candidates are Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington; Dr. John Churchill, secretary of the Phi Beta Kappa Society; Dr. Frank W. Oldham, former chairman and CEO of American State Bank; and Stanley E. Reed, former president of Arkansas Farm Bureau. Biographical information on the candidates is below and application materials are posted online at .

Dr. Carl Johnson, chairman of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, has led an effort to recruit the candidates to apply for the position.

“I’m pleased with the progress of our search for a new president,” Dr. Johnson said. “We have a strong group of very qualified candidates, and we look forward to interviewing them in order to find the best person to lead our diverse and dynamic university system.”

All four candidates have been invited to Little Rock to interview with the board of trustees. The board will interview each candidate individually in executive session.

The board will meet with Churchill on July 13 at 9:30 a.m., Bobbitt on July 13 at 1:30 p.m., Reed on July 14 at 9:30 a.m. and Oldham on July 14 at 1:30 p.m. All of the meetings will be at the University of Arkansas System Office at 2404 N. University Avenue in Little Rock.

The candidates will each be available to visit with members of the media immediately following their individual interview. After the final interview on July 14, the board will convene in executive session to discuss the candidates.

Candidate bios:

Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt has served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington since 2008. Previously, he served five years as dean of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. While at the UA, he was a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry from 1993 to 2008 and director of the UA Arkansas Biosciences Institute from 2001 to 2008. He earned a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Arkansas in 1980 and a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from Iowa State University in 1985.

Dr. John Churchill is secretary of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s oldest academic honorary society. As secretary, he serves as the society’s chief executive officer and head of its national office in Washington D.C. Born in Hector and raised in Little Rock, he previously served as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college at Hendrix College, where he also was a professor of philosophy and twice served as interim president. Churchill completed his undergraduate education at Rhodes College in 1971 and studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He earned his Ph.D. at Yale University in 1978.

Dr. Frank W. Oldham Jr. served as chairman and chief executive officer of American State Bank of Jonesboro until it merged with BancorpSouth Bank in 2005. He was regional president for Northeast Arkansas of BancorpSouth until he retired in 2008. The former president and chief executive office of Worthen Bank, Oldham served on the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees from 1990 to 2000, the last two years as chairman. He earned a B.S. in business from Arkansas State University in 1967, an M.A. in marketing from Central Missouri State University in 1968 and a Ph.D. in business administration from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in 1975.

Stanley E. Reed is founder of Reed Farms of Marianna and a former four-term president of Arkansas Farm Bureau. Reed served on the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2008, the last two years as chairman. He is past chairman of the state Soybean Promotion Board and served on the State Support Committee for Cotton Research. He earned a B.S. in agricultural economics in 1973 and a law degree in 1976 from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He is a member of the Arkansas Academy for Agricultural Engineers and has been honored as a Distinguished Alumni of the College of Engineering.

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