Welcome Dr. Downs

Dr. William M. Downs Begins Term as GWU’s 13th President

Welcome Dr. Downs

William M. Downs, 13th President of Gardner-Webb University, begins his term on July 1. A Raleigh native, Downs earned his BA in Political Science (with a minor in Journalism) from North Carolina State University (NCSU) in 1988, and he holds MA (1990) and PhD (1994) degrees in Political Science from Emory University. Dr. Downs grew up in an academic family, with both parents on the faculty at NCSU.

Prior to his appointment at GWU, Downs was Dean of Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, Professor of Political Science, and W. Keats Sparrow Distinguished Chair in the Liberal Arts at East Carolina University (ECU) in Greenville, N.C. As Dean, Downs had responsibility for ECU’s largest and most diverse academic college, with 16 standalone departments, 17 interdisciplinary programs, 6,500 majors at undergraduate and graduate levels, and more than 530 faculty and staff.

From 1997 to 2014, Downs served various roles at Georgia State University (Atlanta), including area dean, department chair, director and professor. He is an accomplished lecturer, research scholar and author. 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.

President Downs is married to his childhood sweetheart, Kimberly Harwood Downs. Kim is a 1989 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Pharmacy and has three decades of experience as a practicing pharmacist. Together, Bill and Kim have raised two children, Rachel and Bradley. Rachel is a 2018 graduate of the University of Georgia (Chemistry, French) and is entering the School of Dental Medicine at ECU. Bradley is a sophomore studying political science and economics at NCSU.

Downs, his wife and children are lifelong followers of the Christian faith. “Kim and I actually met in fourth grade in a Raleigh Sunday School class, and we have been partners in our spiritual journey ever since,” Downs said. “That journey has shaped who I am as an educator, as a husband/father, and as a member of my community. I fully embrace Gardner-Webb’s commitment to providing rigorous academic programs in a compassionate Christian environment, and I look forward to celebrating the University’s Baptist heritage. My family is eager to find a new church home in the Boiling Springs/Shelby area.”

Learn more about GWU’s new president