Presidential moves: Strong appointments and 2 headscratchers

The North Idaho College Board of Trustees voted Monday to nullify President Nick Swayne's contract. Still, he remains acting president.

In higher education, presidential appointments can oftentimes be straightforward. School leaders are appointed to lead an institution for their quantifiably successful work, like Ron Patterson at Chadron State College. Some presidents decide to retire after a healthy career, such as Clarence Wyatt at Monmouth.

However, a pair of presidents this time around are headscratchers. North Idaho College is stuck paying two presidents although neither technically holds the position. Moreover, Kimberly Ballard-Washington’s decision to step down from her post in Savannah is shrouded in mystery.

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Newly appointed presidents

Ron Patterson – Chadron State College (Neb.)

Chadron State College’s Board of Trustees has appointed Ron Patterson at a momentous time. The Nebraska public college beat the national trend of declining enrollment experiencing a 2.6% increase and a 47% increase in new transfer students, according to the school website.

Patterson himself is no stranger to thriving enrollment. During his seven-year tenure at the University of North Alabama, where he served as chief enrollment officer at one point, enrollment spiked 16.3%. He has most recently served as vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion.

John Dozier – Columbia College (S.C)

John Dozier’s resounding leadership quality is his passion for people and their power to foster strong communities in higher education. He previously served as the Institute Community and Equity Officer at MIT and the chief diversity officer and senior associate provost at the University of South Carolina. He also has prior leadership experience as Kennedy-King College’s former president, according to the school website.

Dozier succeeds William Bogart, who stepped down after a three-year stint that saw a 25% increase in enrollment.

Rhonda Phillips – Chatham University (Pa.)

An academic administrator, a scholar and now president. Rhonda Phillips is an esteemed honors college dean, serving the position for the past decade at Purdue University. Previous to that she served as the associate dean for The Honors College at Arizona State University.

Phillips will be responsible for revamping Chatham’s academic program catalog specifically in health sciences and liberal arts. Additionally, the private university is depending on her to build sustainable financial models and a steady stream of enrollment.

Michael Avaltroni – Fairleigh Dickinson University (N.J.)

After serving as the school’s interim president, Michael Avaltroni got the nod for the full-time position on Wednesday. He is an alumnus of Fairleigh Dickinson University, having earned a bachelor’s in chemistry more than 20 years ago.

With over 12,000 students at New Jersey’s largest private university, the school will need guidance overcoming its operating deficits and modest endowment numbers. Avaltroni’s most notable achievements, however, are in his knack for student success and diversity, such as establishing a Hispanic center.

President—but not really

Nick Swayne – North Idaho College

The North Idaho College Board of Trustees voted Monday to nullify President Nick Swayne’s contract. Still, he remains acting president.

The board voted to place Swayne on administrative leave in December, and in his place, appointed Greg South. However, Swayne sued to be reinstated, and a judge sided with him, arguing there was no probable cause for the fire. However, a $50,000 independent investigation found his hiring and contract illegal.

All in all, North Idaho College has two presidents on the payroll, even though one is on leave and the other’s contract is null and void. The board now has the power to release Swayne from his position at its discretion.

Stepping down

Felecia Nave – Alcorn State University (Miss.)

Felecia Nave is stepping down for undisclosed reasons after having served four years at the helm of Alcorn State University. She was the school’s first Black female president at the state’s first public HBCU.

Students and alumni first started calling for her resignation in 2021 for a variety of reasons, such as declining enrollment, administrative resignations and “abysmal facilities.” Her character was also in question, with students believing she lacks “empathy, transparency and communication,” according to Mississippi Today.

Kimberly Ballard-Washington – Savannah State University (Ga.)

In a letter that even caught Savannah’s mayor by surprise, Kimberly Ballard-Washington has decided to step down from the presidency at Savannah State College. Personal issues have precluded her from her full potential in preparing students and striking a strong work-life balance for employees, she wrote.

University System of Georgia has already named an interim president who will begin in July.


Clarence Wyatt – Monmouth College (Ill.)

Clarence Wyatt announced his plans to retire Monday following the 2023-24 academic year. The final year will be his tenth. He is a first-generation college and high school student.

At Monmouth, Wyatt oversaw the establishment of colleges in engineering, neuroscience, health science and human movement. He also facilitated the private liberal arts college’s largest fundraising campaign, which raised more than $80 million.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and Florida Gator alumnus. A graduate in journalism and communications, 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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