Whitlock Says He Has "Will, Energy and Ability" to Lead EKU in "Challenging Days Ahead"

President Whitlock photo

Eastern Kentucky University President Doug Whitlock told EKU’s Board of Regents on Tuesday, Jan. 17, that he has “the will, energy and ability” to lead the institution in the “challenging days ahead.”

Whitlock, who assumed the presidency in 2007, was the subject of an evaluation recently conducted by the Board.

“While the results of this evaluation were positive,” Whitlock said, “both my own self-evaluation and the input of faculty, staff, students and board members were remarkably consistent in identifying matters that need attention moving forward.

“Several of these,” he added, “will require tough decisions.”

Responding to the Board’s request, Whitlock said his “action plan” would focus on:

·         Articulation of a vision focused on student success, regional stewardship and the development of students as critical and creative thinkers who can communicate.

·         Enrollment management and student success. Whitlock said a “broad-based” implementation team “is working to break down silos, ceilings and walls that get in the way of our … goals” in this area.

·         Operational efficiencies and economies. Whitlock said he intends to seek outside consultation “with an eye toward streamlining our administrative overhead and finding more economical and efficient ways to support our programs and services. We will also be contracting with outside fund raising counsel to evaluate our efforts in fund raising and to advise us about the feasibility of a capital campaign.”

·         In-depth evaluations of his senior staff.

·         More direct engagement with the merged Strategic Planning and Budgeting Council to help ensure that priorities “are set and pursued in the best long-term interests of the institution.”

·         Spending more time in the service region, including his attendance at events for alumni, friends and prospective students throughout the region. “I will be working diligently to communicate to students, especially in explaining why decisions are made that affect them.”

“There are tough times ahead,” Whitlock said, “and my love for this place will help give me the ability to face the hard decisions we have to make together.”

Whitlock’s contract runs through July 2014, ending 12 days before his 71st birthday.

“If the Board desires and my health and energy hold, I might consider going some beyond that,” he told the Regents. “The real tipping point in my decision was that, whenever the time comes, I want to pass this institution on to my successor so that she or he will not have to deal with circumstances that I truly believe no one is better prepared to face than I am.”

Board of Regents Chair Gary Abney shared the final report from Pappas Consulting Group, which conducted the evaluation of President Whitlock.

Abney, who was re-elected as board chair earlier in the meeting, said the report concluded, with responses generally consistent from all groups, that Whitlock was “viewed as an effective leader by both internal and external stakeholders” and has guided Eastern “with a steady hand during economic times that have grown even more complex” since his last evaluation in 2009.

Abney shared the report’s findings that “most respondents would like to see the President provide personal leadership with regard to clarifying his vision for the University; taking bold and decisive action with regard to recruiting and retaining more undergraduates as well as improving student graduation rates; ensuring that the senior leadership team is serving optimally the needs of the University, its students, faculty and staff; focusing his efforts on the service region in which the University resides; and setting and keeping institutional priorities.

“As President Whitlock develops his action plan for the Board, he needs to set priorities and be prepared to make difficult decisions in the best long-term interests of the University and the region. The challenges facing higher education will continue to grow and become more complex over time. There will be ‘no business as usual.’  Indeed, transformative action will be required and that will take strong and intentional leadership and laser-like focus on the mission, vision and values of EKU.”

Abney said the Board will continue to work with Whitlock to implement an action plan focused on the mission, vision and values of the university and “move EKU forward as a great public comprehensive university and leader in higher education.”

The chair expressed the Board’s appreciation “for all who participated in and provided input into this process” and for the president’s cooperation and “positive reception of the evaluation process and feedback from the process.”

In other business, the Board:

·         elected Barry Poynter, associate vice president of financial affairs, as treasurer, replacing Deborah Newsom, vice president of financial affairs, who leaves EKU after March 31 to take a position at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

·         heard reports on enrollment management and student success, development/advancement (total giving was up 38 percent in Fiscal Year 2011), the rapidly growing aviation program, the Center for the Performing Arts, the Center for Renewable and Alternative Fuel Technologies (CRAFT), and the doctoral program in the College of Education, as well as a construction update.

·         viewed a presentation by Odette Shults with FMB Advertising on the university’s comprehensive marketing campaign, which promotes the theme “You Can Get There from Here.” Advertisements have begun to air on Lexington stations and cable networks. The campaign also includes banner ads on popular web sites and will eventually include print, outdoor and cinema advertising.

·         re-approved Crowe Horwath LLP as external auditor for the university.

Published on January 18, 2012