President moves: February breathes fresh air into these leaders’ careers

Neal Smatresk will conclude his 10 years of leadership at the University of North Texas. While he will be returning as a professor of biology at the university this summer, Smatresk already has a cherished career to look back on.


Morakinyo Kuti – Central State University (Ohio)

Central State University has found its 10th president in Morakinyo Kuti, the HBCU’s current vice president for Research and Economic Development and director of Land-Grant Programs. With an academic background in finance and business administration, including a doctorate in public policy and administration from Walden University, Kuti is no rookie to working on an institution’s bottom line.

In just three years, he’s helped increase CSU’s external awards by 227%—it now totals $50.5 million—and also increased their ranking on the National Science Foundation’s survey of Higher Education of Research and Development Expenditures (HERD) from 42 to 22. Additionally, he’s secured funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to construct a $16 million research facility set to open this fall, according to a university statement.

Richard Rhodes – Texas A&M University-Central Texas

Ever since Richard Rhodes served as Texas A&M University-Central Texas’ interim president in September 2023, he’s gained the trust of the system chancellor—so much so that he’s earned the permanent position.

Aside from his steady hand as interim president, Rhodes is well known for his successful stint as the chancellor of the Austin Community College District (ACC), which grew to 11 campuses and experienced a 168% uptick in the number of degrees earned by students under his leadership, according to the university system. Rhodes worked with the Texas Legislature to authorize ACC’s first bachelor’s degrees, and he helped create co-enrollment programs with Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Austin and Texas State University.

His unique success at ACC matches well with Central Texas’ identity, being that it’s the only “upper-level” university in the state that takes in undergraduate students who’ve started but not yet completed their degrees.

“His success at ACC speaks for itself,” said John Sharp, the A&M system chancellor. “I’m excited to see what he can do at A&M-Central Texas, a truly unique campus with an important mission.”

Steven Tepper – Hamilton College (N.Y.)
Hamilton College President Steven Tepper (Source: Hamilton College)

Hamilton College has found an eclectic new leader in Steven Tepper, the current dean and director of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University (ASU). In line with Hamilton’s exiting president, Tepper brings a track record of interest and advocacy for student equity and inclusion to the New York liberal arts institution.

At ASU, Tepper managed to combine the disciplines of art, science, engineering, technology and media in one of the nation’s leading comprehensive design and arts colleges in America. He’s also helped triple the number of Hispanic, Black and Indigenous full-time faculty while creating dozens of fellowships and visiting positions for artists and designers from under-represented communities.

In line with Tepper’s forward-thinking body of work, he’s also a key architect of two national policy centers focused on creativity and cultural policy at Princeton University and Vanderbilt University, according to Hamilton.

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Retirement hiccup

Jack Daniels III – Madison College (Wis.)

Jack Daniels III announced in October 2023 that he would be retiring from his position in June of this year. However, the university is having trouble finding a worthy replacement. As a result, Daniels has agreed to defer his retirement until the end of Dec. 31, Channel 3000 reports.

Stepping down

Bob Davies – Central Michigan University

Bob Davies of Central Michigan University is stepping down after six years at the helm, citing personal and professional reasons, The Detroit News reports. While the university struggled with declining enrollment throughout the majority of its time, they have rebounded in the last two years, and CMU has experienced traction in its online programs.

Colorado College’s L. Song Richardson (Source: The Council of Independent Colleges)
L. Song Richardson – Colorado College

The 2023-2024 academic year will be the end of the line for President L. Song Richardson at Colorado College. Her tenure will have lasted three years since she took over as the 14th president and the first woman of color on July 1, 2021.

Richardson’s decision to step down is partially driven by internal tension, having to quench her passion for equity advocacy so as not to mire her responsibility as a college president, she wrote in an email. The liberal arts president was vocal about the end of affirmative action, asserting that the ruling made higher education leaders complacent about more intentionally advancing student equity.

“As our national dialogue about these topics continues to intensify, I find myself increasingly torn between my desire to pursue that work as an academic with the freedom to fully engage in these debates, express my personal views, and challenge the status quo, and my responsibilities to CC as president,” she wrote in the email.

She will retire to the University of California, Irvine, at the end of the academic year to fulfill a “moral obligation” and where she will be able to more freely speak on contentious topics “as a law professor, scholar and director of an Institute,” The Gazette reports.

Neal Smatresk – University of North Texas
University of North Texas President Neal Smatresk (Source: University of North Texas)

Neal Smatresk will conclude his 10 years of leadership at the University of North Texas. While he will be returning as a professor of biology at the university this summer, Smatresk already has a cherished career to look back on.

Under Smatresk’s tenure, UNT gained R1 Carnegie Classification and federal status as a Hispanic Serving Institution for possessing a student body that’s 25% Hispanic, which helped spur additional federal funding. Enrollment has grown by over 11,000 students in the past decade, partially driven by Smatresk’s forward-thinking strategy of leveraging data to create better recruitment strategies.

Last year, the Texas Legislature named UNT as one of four universities eligible for a $3.9 billion endowment available to four “emerging” research universities, The Texas Tribune reports.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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