Columbus State University has a new president.
The 19-member University System of Georgia Board of Regents, during its meeting Wednesday, unanimously voted to hire Chris Markwood, the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. He will assume the new position June 1, the board announced in a news release. Markwood will be CSU’s fifth president in the institution’s 57-year history, succeeding Tim Mescon, who retired Dec. 31.
“Columbus State University is well positioned to continue its trajectory of excellence and growth,” Markwood said in the release. “My family and I are thrilled to join such a vibrant campus and community at such an exciting time.”
Markwood’s wife, Bridget, is CEO of Leader N U, a consulting organization specializing in communication, leadership and character development for youth, young adults and professionals. They have a 6-year-old daughter, Reagan.
Markwood, 49, was one of three finalists the seven-member Special Regents’ Search Committee recommended to chancellor Hank Huckaby last week. Huckaby then recommended Markwood to the full board during its meeting Wednesday at Georgia Gwinnett College.
The other finalists were Randy Hanna, 56, ex-chancellor of the Florida College System (formerly known as the Florida Community College System), and Carl Stockton, 57, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Hanna and Stockton also are two of the three finalists to be president at Jacksonville State University.
“Dr. Markwood brings proven leadership to Columbus State, which will continue the institution’s growth and advancement,” Huckaby said in the release. “We see a bright future for Columbus State. The campus search committee is to be commended for identifying a strong group of candidates.”
Markwood has been provost and vice president for academic affairs at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi since 2011. He was at the University of Wisconsin-Superior for five years, serving as interim chancellor and vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculties. He also has served and taught at the University of Central Oklahoma and Lamar University in Texas. He has a doctorate in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Hanna was chancellor of the Florida College System from 2011 through the end of 2014, when he resigned to pursue a university presidency and return to the Tallahassee, Fla., law firm Bryant Miller Olive, where he worked for 27 years. He has been a college professor, college board member, a trustee for educational and state organizations and an attorney for the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services and then-U.S. Sen. Bob Graham. Hanna has a law degree from Florida State University and a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. Stockton has been provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at University of Houston-Clear Lake since 2007. He was a dean at the University of Texas-Brownsville and has served and taught at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and Radford University in Virginia. He has a doctorate in health education from the University of Tennessee.
Four weeks ago, the 17-member CSU Presidential Search and Screening Committee recommended to the state committee those three candidates along with Jose-Marie Griffiths, 62, vice president for academic affairs at Bryant University in Rhode Island, where she has worked since 2010. She was a dean at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and has served or taught at the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Michigan, the University of Tennessee, The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and the University of California-Berkeley.
The local committee eliminated only one of the five candidates who visited CSU last month: Aldemaro Romero Jr., 63, the former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Southern Illinois University, where he is a biology professor after losing his five-year deanship Dec. 31 in a reorganization. But the state board requires the local committee to recommend 3-5 candidates, so the highest number of visiting candidates the local committee could have eliminated was two.
Out of 60 applicants, the local committee chose 11 to interview. Ten were interviewed in February in Atlanta.The five candidates who visited CSU in March each spent parts of three days meeting with groups and individuals, including two forums open to the public, one on the main campus in midtown and the other on the RiverPark campus in downtown. The local committee received feedback from the public through 325 online surveys, said John Finley, the committee’s chairman and associate professor of business administration at CSU.
Although the local committee wasn’t allowed to rank the four candidates it recommended to the state committee, the Ledger-Enquirer asked Finley whether Markwood was the top choice among the faculty, staff, students and community leaders inside and outside the committee.
“Definitely,” he said. “Without a doubt.”
Then he explained why.
In addition to the qualifications, Finley said, Markwood “just seems to be not only a good academic and a professional and thorough leader, but he also seems like a good person, a very good person.”
Finley, the executive officer of CSU’s Faculty Senate, got “windshield time” with Markwood while driving him around town. During that time and at meals with committee members, Finley said, “there was a really good flow of conversation. It never seemed unnatural. It didn’t have an interview feel.”
All of which makes Finley relieved and proud about this news.
“Not only for the work we did on the committee,” he said, “but also how the university and community came together.”
Unlike the other CSU finalists, this is the only presidency Markwood sought.
“We were looking for not a job but really for the right match,” Markwood told the Ledger-Enquirer by phone Wednesday. “There were really several things about CSU that matched our background and matched our focus.”
Markwood mentioned two matches: CSU’s reputation for having an excellent partnership with the community and its emphasis on servant leadership.
“You really need to invest in the individuals in your organization to help them grow and be the team they need to be,” he said. “You don’t see that everywhere. Few put the stake in the ground and say, ‘How you lead matters.’”
Beyond the campus, Markwood said, he and his family were impressed with Columbus when they arrived early for his interview and toured the town on their own. They saw a vibrant downtown, where families watched a bike race, and they saw abundant shopping options at local stores, so Bridget could make an “emergency” shoe purchase when they realized all the walking they would be doing, Markwood said.
They even sampled Georgia barbecue, mighty different from what they are used to in Texas. Asked which is better, Markwood diplomatically said with a laugh, “I don’t know if I want to get in trouble – yet.”
As for challenges he expects to face when he becomes CSU president, Markwood mentioned the immediate issue of finishing the university’s $100 million “First Choice” capital campaign, which was announced earlier this month, and the long-term issue of “growing enrollment responsibly in a way that we can provide the support students need to be successful and increase student retention and graduation, because funding is tied to how well we do.”
Mescon was CSU president for six years. He announced seven months ago that he would retired Dec. 31 to move to Amsterdam and become senior vice president and chief officer for Europe, the Middle East and Africa with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International.
The previous presidents of CSU, which began as Columbus College, are Thomas Whitley (1958-79), Francis Brooke (1980-87) and Frank Brown (1988-2008).
Tom Hackett, the CSU provost and vice president for academic affairs, has been serving as interim president.
MEMBERS OF THE SEARCH COMMITTEES
The Special Regents’ Search Committee comprises seven regents:
Chairman C. Thomas Hopkins Jr., an orthopedic surgeon in Griffin.
Donald Leebern Jr., a Columbus native and chairman of McDonough-based Georgia Crown Distributing Co. He chaired the search committee when Mescon, then dean of the business college at Kennesaw State University, was hired as CSU president in June 2008.
Neil L. Pruitt Jr., chairman and CEO of PruittHealth Inc. in Norcross. He was added to the committee in January, when he became Board of Regents chairman.
Sachin Shailendra, president of SG Contracting in Atlanta.
Kessel Stelling Jr., president and CEO of Columbus-based Synovus Financial Corp.
Larry Walker, former Majority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, now an attorney with Walker, Hulbert Gray & Byrd in Perry.
Philip A. Wilheit Sr., president of Wilheit Packaging and Marketing Images in Gainesville.
The CSU Presidential Search and Screen Committee has 17 members:
* Chairman John Finley, CSU associate professor of business administration and the executive officer of the faculty senate.
* Kevin Burgess, CSU associate professor of biology.
* Clarence "Earl" Coleman, CSU professor of music.
* Courtney George, CSU assistant professor of English.
* Tim Howard, CSU professor of mathematics.
* Stuart Rayfield, CSU associate professor and director of the Servant Leadership Program.
* Michael Richardson, CSU professor and director of the education doctorate program.
* Ekaterina Strekalova, CSU assistant professor of early childhood education.
* Aimee Vael, CSU associate professor of nursing.
* Amber Dees, assistant director of CSU’s public administration program and president of the staff council.
* Rachel Green, president of the CSU Student Government Association.
* Richard Holmes, CSU Foundation Board of Trustees member.
* Nancy Buntin, CSU Foundation Board of Trustees member.
* John Lee, an otolaryngologist in Columbus.
* Tony Link, chairman of the CSU Foundation Board of Trustees.
* Marc Olivié, president and CEO of W.C. Bradley Co., and CSU Foundation Board of Trustees member.
* Jimmy Yancey, CSU Foundation Board of Trustees member.