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Jan. 5, 2012
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

PASSHE board of governors name Williams interim president

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – William Williams, Slippery Rock University’s provost and vice president of academic affairs since 2003, will become interim president of the University Feb. 11 following the retirement of President Robert Smith. The promotion was made public today as part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education board of governors meeting in Harrisburg.

            “This is truly a great opportunity. I have enjoyed my service as provost, vice president and professor of English at SRU. I have worked very closely with President Smith. To follow in his footsteps is daunting, but I know the faculty, and I know together we are ready to meet any challenge during the coming months,” Williams said.

            The newly named interim president will occupy the post until a successor is selected. SRU’s new president is expected to be in place by summer.

SRU’s Council of Trustees is currently involved in a national search to replace Smith who announced last spring he would retire in early 2012 after serving as the University’s top executive since 2002.

The SRU council’s recommendations will be presented to the PASSHE chancellor and the state system’s board of governors for a final decision.

“I am more than confident that I am leaving the University in great hands,” said Smith in praising Williams for his leadership at SRU.

“Bill has truly been a driving force in upgrading, expanding and improving the University’s quality academic programs. He has also steered our various programs through demanding accreditation processes, including the recent, very favorable, Middle States Council of Higher Education evaluation. He has represented SRU and the state system in contract negotiations, and he is clearly dedicated to seeing that students receive a quality education at SRU,” Smith said.

“I am confident he will continue his quiet leadership style while the search continues for my permanent replacement. He is truly a great friend, and I will miss him,” Smith said.

Smith and his wife, Ramona, will move to Tennessee after leaving SRU.

“The Council of Trustees is certainly pleased that Dr. Williams has been selected to serve as interim president until our search for a new president is completed. Council has worked with Provost Williams for the past nine years. I personally support Dr. Williams and believe he has the knowledge to lead the University during this important transition period, and I look forward to working with him,” said Joshua Young, chair of the council.

In addition to his faculty and administrator work, Williams served nearly two decades as president of the Association of Pennsylvania State, College and University Faculty, the faculty union at SRU. He stepped down as union president when appointed to the interim provost’s post in 2002, saying, “I can’t be on both horses.”

Williams was recommended for the interim provost and vice president’s position, and later the full position, by Smith when Smith was elevated from provost and vice president for academic affairs to interim president in 2002. Smith was later named president following a national search, and Williams’ interim title was lifted.

“Bill has been my friend since I arrived at Slippery Rock University,” said Jace Condravy, professor of English and APSCUF president, “and I am very pleased he will be serving as interim president of the University. I became APSCUF president and English department chairperson when he was named interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, and our working relationship both on a professional and personal level, has been unequalled. Our University and our union have benefitted greatly because of his leadership. I know he will continue to serve the University well during his current assignment.”

Williams, 66, joined the University’s English department as an instructor in 1982.

He taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate English courses and wrote numerous book reviews before moving to administration. While in the English department, he organized a number of academic conferences and was elected department chair.

Williams is a recognized expert in literary criticism. At SRU, he earned promotions from instructor to assistant professor to associate professor and then to full professor.

He received his doctorate in English literature from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Youngstown State University. Before teaching at SRU, he taught at West Virginia Northern Community College and at YSU, and was a teaching fellow at Kent State University while undertaking graduate work.

            His, wife, A. Lee Williams, is a professor of elementary education/early childhood in SRU’s College of Education. Two of his children are SRU graduates.

            Williams said he will now take a few days to determine who should be named interim provost and vice president for academic affairs when he moves up to the interim president’s post.

Provosts review curriculum and suggest revisions to improve academics and work closely with faculty in establishing academic programs.