President moves: Leaders cross state lines for new opportunities; 1 steps down

Marcus Thompson is stepping away from his position with Mississippi's board of education to lead one of its colleges, while Leslie Ward is prioritizing her personal life for the future.

Whether the president of a state system or a college within, leaders across the country have shifted their focus to new opportunities, sometimes crossing state lines. Charles Welch of the Arkansas State University System is packing his things and moving to D.C. At the same time, Black Hills State University’s Steve Elliott finds himself in S.D. as a first-time president.

Sometimes, the best decision a president can make is taking a step back. Marcus Thompson is stepping away from his position with Mississippi’s board of education to lead one of its colleges, while Leslie Ward is deciding to prioritize her personal life.

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(Source: Wayne State College)

Steve Elliott – Black Hills State University (S.D.)

The South Dakota Board of Regents has found a new Black Hills State University president: Steve Elliott, a Marine Corps veteran and accomplished sculptor.

As dynamic as Elliott’s background and education are, his 20 years at Wayne State College (Neb.) also speak volumes about his durability and commitment. At WSC, Elliott served as a faculty member, department chair and dean before becoming vice president of academic affairs in 2016.

With a master’s in fine arts from the University of Maryland, his pieces have been exhibited in 26 countries, KOTA reports.

He begins his position on Dec. 22.

Donald Green – Gordon State College (Ga.)

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) has named Donald Green as Gordon State College’s permanent president after serving as its interim since May, USG announced. His official appointment began on Nov. 15.

Green brings over 30 years of leadership experience to GSC with his most recent presidential appointments at Point Park University (Pa.) in 2021 and at Georgia Highlands College in 2014. He’s executed at the leadership level at USG for a combined seven years.

In his last stint as a USG leader, Green expanded GHC’s degree offerings at the associate’s and bachelor’s levels, improved its economic footprint and increased its scholarship opportunities.

In 2020, Green received the Phi Beta Kappa Shirley B. Gordon Award for outstanding work in support of student success, one of only 13 college presidents in the country to do so.

Marcus Thompson (Courtesy photo)

Marcus Thompson – Jackson State University (Miss.)

The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) named Marcus Thompson the president of Jackson State University. Currently serving as the deputy commissioner and chief administrative officer of IHL, Thompson will be in for a quick leadership turnaround as he begins his appointment on Nov. 27.

The presidency at JSU has been a revolving door for over a decade. Its most recent president, Thomas Hudson, was placed on administrative leave before formally resigning in March due to campus safety concerns and a faculty vote of no confidence. JSU is the state’s largest HBCU.

With over a decade of service with IHL, Thompson was responsible for all senior-level leaders and served as a liaison between the IHL Commissioner’s Office, the IHL Board of Trustees and Mississippi’s eight public universities, WTOK reports.

Stepping down

Leslie Ward – Vermont College of Fine Arts

Leslie Ward is resigning from the Vermont College of Fine Arts after serving four years. As “enriching” her experience in the role has been, she is stepping down to address “personal concerns,” VT Digger reports.

Ward is leaving during a pivotal time for the private graduate-level institution. Last year it announced it would move its residency programs out of state to Colorado College and Susquehanna University (Penn.). VCFA has since begun selling off its campus facilities due to the unsustainable costs.

Ward’s last day will be Dec. 22. Afterward, she will return to VCFA’s board of trustees.

Charles Welch (Source: Arkansas State University System)

Charles Welch – Arkansas State University System

Arkansas State University System President Charles Welch is stepping down after 12 years of service after being named president and chief executive officer of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).

The system’s board of trustees waived his requirement to provide a 120-resignation notice as he prepares to move to D.C, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. Welch previously served as chair of AASCU’s board of directors from 2019 to 2021. He starts his new position in mid-January.

Under Welch’s tenure, the university system underwent a series of mergers, including that of Mid-South Community College, the College of the Ouachitas and Henderson State University. The ASU system also established the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State and opened a $100 million ASU campus in Querétaro, Mexico, KTLO 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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