Communications from the Presidential Search Committee

Click on the date to read the content of each message.

February 13, 2019: Email to Alumni, Faculty, Staff, and Students

Dear Gardner-Webb family,

It’s my great privilege to announce on behalf of the Board of Trustees that Dr. William M. Downs has been named Gardner-Webb University’s 13th president. Dr. Downs currently serves at East Carolina University (ECU) as the dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences in Greenville, N.C. He will begin his term as GWU’s President on July 1.

A distinguished academic leader and accomplished administrator, Dr. Downs brings decades of experience to GWU. In his current role at ECU, he administers 16 academic departments and 17 interdisciplinary degree programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, which has more than 6,000 arts and sciences undergraduate majors and more than 730 graduate majors. In his role as dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences, he also ensures the quality of general education curriculum for more than 23,000 undergraduate students.

A North Carolina native, Dr. Downs earned his Bachelor of Arts from North Carolina State University and his Master of Arts and Doctoral degrees from Emory University. He has been a research fellow at Harvard University’s Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, a graduate research associate at the Carter Center’s African Governance Program and a Fulbright Research Fellow in Belgium.

I want to thank the Search Committee members for their work and especially committee chair David Royster for his leadership throughout this year-long search.

I am delighted to welcome Dr. Downs to Gardner-Webb. He brings vision, academic depth, and significant leadership experience to the position. We expect great things ahead.

Best regards,

Jennifer Marion Mills
Chair, Board of Trustees

January 15, 2019: Email to Alumni, Faculty, Staff, and Students

Dear Gardner Webb Family,

I am contacting you to share important information about the leadership transition at Gardner-Webb University.

As you are well aware, the University is in the final stages of a presidential search. The members of the Search Committee, under the leadership of trustee David Royster, and in collaboration with the full Board of Trustees, have been working hard to fill the vacancy that will be left on January 31, when Dr. Bonner officially enters retirement after fourteen years of service as President of the University.

While the committee hopes that it will be no more than a matter of weeks before a new president can be named, it is now likely that there will be a brief period after January 31st during which the University will need interim leadership. In accordance with the Bylaws of the University, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees has asked Dr. Ben Leslie, Provost and Executive Vice President, to serve in the role of Interim President until such time as the new President takes up official duties.

With nearly 13 years of administrative experience as Provost and Executive Vice President of the University, the Board is pleased to entrust Dr. Leslie with this responsibility and confident that his leadership will help ensure a stable and smooth transition.

Respectfully,

Jennifer Marion Mills, Chair
Board of Trustees

December 4, 2018: Email to Alumni, Faculty, and Staff

Dear Gardner-Webb family,

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoyed time with family and friends. We have so much to be thankful for at Gardner-Webb.

The Search Committee has had a very busy few weeks since my October update. The committee members and our partners from Coleman Lew met in November over two days with the candidates on our short list. These face-to-face interviews, conducted in Charlotte, represented a chance to meet these outstanding individuals and understand their vision and leadership. It was also an opportunity to tell them our university story.

After thoughtful review and lengthy conversations, four leading candidates have emerged. These are four truly remarkable individuals. We have begun scheduling second interviews with each of them.

I remain thankful for your encouragement and open-minded support for the Search Committee. Please remember that all the information and communications about the search are available online for your review.

As always, feel free to reach out to me if you have concerns or questions.

Very best regards,

David W. Royster III

October 29, 2018: Email to Alumni, Faculty, and Staff

Dear Gardner-Webb family,

October has been a busy month on campus. I hope you had an opportunity to come to Homecoming and enjoy the campus on a beautiful fall Saturday.

I would like to update you on the progress made by the Presidential Search Committee and our search partner, Coleman Lew + Associates.

Since we last updated everyone in September, Coleman Lew has met with the Search Committee on campus and reviewed in detail the current group of applicants. We have selected a short list of candidates and in the next several weeks we will schedule neutral site interviews with all of the individuals on the short list. We expect these interviews to be completed before the Thanksgiving break. After that process is complete, we will determine next steps, including face-to-face interviews and campus visits.

I continue to hear from many of you, especially after these update emails. I appreciate your encouragement and support for the Search Committee as we move forward through this important work. I remind you that all the information and communications about the search are available online.

As always, feel free to reach out to me if you have concerns or questions.

Very best regards,

David W. Royster III

September 28, 2018: Email to Alumni, Faculty, and Staff

Dear Gardner-Webb family,

I hope that you’ve had an enjoyable summer, and that your fall is going well. Life is already busy on the Gardner-Webb campus.

I would like to update you on the progress made over the last few weeks by the Presidential Search Committee and our search partner, Coleman Lew + Associates.

Since we last updated everyone in July, Coleman Lew has had preliminary discussions with a number of potential candidates. The Search Committee will meet on campus in the next several weeks and begin reviewing the candidates and their qualifications in detail. Our Coleman Lew teammates will join us in these discussions, during which we anticipate narrowing the field of candidates. We expect interviews and campus visits to follow. I know the coming weeks will be busy.

I have heard from many of you since the search process began. I appreciate your encouragement and support for the Search Committee and the important task we have. Be assured that we are working diligently towards our goal, and that our partners at Coleman Lew continue to be a great help.

I will have another update for you in October. As always, feel free to reach out to me if you have concerns or questions.

Very best regards,

David W. Royster III

July 9, 2018: Email to Alumni, Faculty, and Staff

Dear Gardner-Webb family,

I would like to share an update on our progress with the University’s presidential search.

When we began work this past spring, the GWU Board of Trustees asked me to form and chair a Presidential Search Committee. Once the committee was selected, we created a website designed especially for communicating updates such as this one. We chose a search partner firm, Coleman Lew + Associates, and created a description of the position and its requirements. That position description appears on the Gardner-Webb University and Coleman Lew + Associates websites.

We have also shared the information and description with approximately 1,200 prospective candidates and/or sources. We included most Baptist-affiliated colleges and universities in this solicitation. Between August 1 and 15, the position will also be posted on the websites of Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed and/or Higher Ed Jobs.

We want the life of the posting to extend beyond the start of the fall semester. Our experience suggests that postings get more attention after the start of a new school year—typically following Labor Day.

Thus far, 13 individuals have either applied for the position or have been recommended to us. We are in the early stages of vetting these individuals for interest and qualifications. In the meantime, we expect to continue receiving applications and referrals.

We expected the pace of the search to be slower this summer, as many of our prospective candidates are traveling or otherwise unavailable. The pace of the search should quicken considerably after the fall semester begins. Be assured that we will continue to provide updates as the search moves forward.

As always, feel free to reach out to me if you have concerns or questions.

Very best regards

David W. Royster III

May 2, 2018: Press Release

Please click here to read the press release regarding the formation of the Presidential Search Committee.

March 29, 2018: Email to Alumni

Dear colleagues and members of the Board,

As you know, Dr. Frank Bonner announced this past January that he will retire after more than 30 years of dedicated service to the University.

Since Dr. Bonner’s announcement, a search committee has been formed. I have accepted the role of Chair for the committee. Other members include the following:

Trustee Members
Rodney Allison
Candy Arey
Ron Beane
Susan Briggs
Chris Welch

Faculty Members
Dr. Donald Berry, Department of Religious Studies; Chair, Faculty Council
Dr. Cheryl Duffus, Department of English; Vice Chair, Faculty Council

Staff Members
Scot Hull, Co-Chair, Staff Council
Lou Ann Scates, Chair, Staff Council

Students
Aliah Price, Student Government Association President, 2018-19

To help us secure top-flight candidates for the important position of GWU president, we have selected a respected executive search firm—Coleman Lew + Associates, Inc. of Charlotte. On April 9, representatives from Coleman Lew will make their first campus visit, meeting with the President’s Cabinet, executive members of the Staff Council, deans and faculty leadership, department chairs and, of course, students.

We have had a busy few weeks preparing for this work. I expect the pace will continue to be brisk. A website is almost complete, and we are finalizing a communications plan to ensure that the process is transparent, open and inclusive.

As we move forward in this work, I ask for your support and active engagement. The work we do together is essential to sustaining this great University we all love.

Best regards,

David W. Royster III