Oct. 5, 2006

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Trustees appoint first chancellor for ASU-Jonesboro

Dr. Robert L. Potts, a veteran administrator in higher education, today was selected to serve as the first chancellor of the Jonesboro campus of Arkansas State University. The Board of Trustees met in special session to act on a recommendation by Dr. Les Wyatt, system president, following an extensive search process that began early this year.

“I am pleased to recommend Dr. Robert L. Potts to the Board of Trustees as a person who has the credentials and the vision to lead Arkansas State University at Jonesboro,” Dr. Wyatt said. “As we approach our centennial and continue serving our students in the best ways possible, Robert’s experiences in higher education leadership will serve us well into the future.”

Dr. Robert L. PottsDr. Potts has had a distinguished career in higher education, serving the past two years as chancellor of the North Dakota University System. He resigned the chancellorship in August, but has continued to serve as a consultant to the system.

Previously, he served as president of the University of North Alabama in Florence, Ala., for more than 14 years. Potts was one of six finalists for chancellor, each of whom visited the ASU campus during September for a series of interviews and a community reception. “I am thrilled to have this opportunity to serve at Arkansas State University,” Potts said. “During the short time I have had to become familiar with Arkansas State, I am very impressed with what has been accomplished here. I also am very excited at what I see as the great potential for ASU in the future.”

Jim Pickens of Little Rock, who is serving this year as chair of the Board of Trustees, commended President Wyatt and the campus community for the diligent efforts that resulted in Potts coming to Jonesboro. “I believe I can speak for the entire Board when I say that we are extremely pleased to appoint Dr. Robert L. Potts as the first chancellor of ASU-Jonesboro. When we contemplated this change last December, we hoped to be successful in finding someone with outstanding character and a proven record of performance. In Robert Potts, I believe we have found that individual. We look forward to working with him for the benefit of Arkansas State University and the Jonesboro campus.”

Initially at Arkansas State, Potts said he wants to spend lots of time getting to know the faculty and the students, and learning all he can about ASU’s progress. While he is not ready to announce specific new initiatives, one focal point for opportunity has already caught his attention . . . Arkansas State University’s centennial observance in 2009-10. ASU evolved from one of four regional agricultural training schools that were created by the Arkansas Legislature through Act 100 of 1909.

Building on his experience at other institutions, he wants to build close working relationships with students at ASU, also. “That’s one of the joys I get out of higher education, seeing the value added to these students’ lives, from when they come in as freshmen to when they graduate.”

Long career in administration
When he assumes his duties at ASU-Jonesboro, Potts will draw on his career that began in law but gradually moved to an emphasis on education. After studying at Newbold College in England then completing his bachelor’s degree at Southern Adventist University in Tennessee, Potts earned a juris doctor degree from the University of Alabama. He later earned a master of laws degree from Harvard University. After clerking for the federal district court chief judge in northern Alabama, he entered private practice for 11 years, often working on education issues for institutional clients.

He served as legal counsel for the University of North Alabama and the Franklin County Board of Education, and his civic involvement included service on the boards of trustees of Alabama State University in Montgomery and Oakwood College in Huntsville. His first full-time involvement in higher education came in 1984, when the University of Alabama System named him general counsel. In 1990, Potts was selected after a national search to be president of the University of North Alabama.

At North Alabama, his accomplishments included streamlining the administrative structure, implementing a shared governance decision making structure, raising admission standards, and establishing a development and advancement office. He and his administration also led the university’s first capital campaign, established a Child Development Center, expanded the international students program, completed a campus master plan, and implemented several construction projects, including academic buildings, student recreation center, four residence halls, and others.

While with the North Dakota University System, Potts was chief executive officer for a system that included 42,000 students on 6 four-year campuses and 5 two-year campuses. Among the highlights of his work there, he provided leadership in creating a statewide collaboration plan for increasing the number of international students, implementing a new higher education administrative software system, continuing the highly acclaimed Higher Education Roundtable process that successfully aligned the higher education system with the needs of the state, and implementing the first stage of a $50 million Economic Centers of Excellence program for system campuses.

His list of professional activities is long, including membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges, the board of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, and several accreditation teams. He also chaired the Secretary of the Army’s ROTC Program Sub-Committee, which focused on improving the Army ROTC and Junior ROTC programs throughout the United States. In addition to his administrative experience, he has taught at Boston University, University of Alabama, and University of North Alabama.

The Potts family
Potts, 62, met his wife Irene, a native of Sweden, while they were participating in an international education program in England. Now married for 41 years, they are the parents of two adult children. Julie Anna Potts and her husband, Parks Shackelford, live in the Washington, D. C. area where Julie Anna is general counsel for the American Farm Bureau Federation and Parks, a native of Jones, La., has an agricultural background and currently works for Florida Crystals, a sugar cane company. They have twin daughters, and are expecting a boy, the Potts’ first grandson, in November.

Les Potts and his wife Holly also have two daughters. They live in Starkville, Miss., where he is employed as a pilot for Mississippi State University. Holly has previously taught for Mississippi State.

Appointment as Chancellor
The appointment of Robert L. Potts as chancellor for the ASU-Jonesboro campus is for a term beginning Nov. 15, 2006, through June 30, 2009. The appointment period may be extended annually by action of the Board of Trustees. The annual salary is $198,196, which is the line item maximum for the position. Chancellor Potts is also provided housing and an automobile in conjunction with his appointment, and also receives the benefits provided to other ASU employees.

The ASU System
The ASU Board of Trustees is comprised of five members appointed by the governor to staggered five-year terms. Wyatt has been serving both as president of the ASU system of campuses and as chancellor, or chief executive, of the Jonesboro campus. The Board voted last December to separate his duties and appoint a chancellor so that Wyatt can spend more time overseeing the system development and securing additional resources. In addition to Potts, the chancellors at Beebe, Mountain Home and Newport also report to President Wyatt.

Arkansas State University in Jonesboro enrolled approximately 11,000 students this fall in its programs leading to doctoral, specialist, master’s, bachelor’s and associate’s degrees. Jonesboro is the largest campus in the ASU system, which also includes two-year campuses at Beebe, Mountain Home and Newport. Campuses at Heber Springs and Searcy, along with a technical college at Marked Tree, are also part of the system.

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