Dr. Robert C. Brown, whose leadership as president over the past two decades transformed Arkansas Tech University from a small college to one of five universities in the state with more than 10,000 students, has announced that the 2013-14 academic year will be his last as active president at Arkansas Tech.
Brown made the announcement during the annual fall semester opening session with faculty and staff at the Ross Pendergraft Library and Technology Center on Friday morning.
"This is the right time to make this decision," said Brown while standing beside his wife of 45 years, Jill Brown, and speaking to the faculty and staff. "I and my family are in good health. There is nothing wrong, and that is what makes this the right time. We have the opportunity to step aside at the zenith of Arkansas Tech, and I owe that privilege to each of you."
Brown, who also holds the rank of professor of economics, said that he expects to maintain an association with Arkansas Tech once his tenure as president is complete.
President at Arkansas Tech since July 1, 1993, Brown has the longest tenure at his present institution among all four-year college and university presidents and chancellors in Arkansas.
More than 400 presidents and chancellors from around the United States belong to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).
Among those more than 400 chief executive officers, only 12 current presidents or chancellors have served more than 20 years at their current institution.
As of Friday morning, Brown is among those dozen steadfast leaders.
Brown is beginning his 21st academic session at Arkansas Tech —- and his 51st consecutive year in higher education dating back to his freshman year as a student at Northwestern State University (La.).
"On the afternoon I was elected president of Arkansas Tech, I told those in attendance at Chambers Cafeteria that this institution represents the best, the brightest and the most significant promise that we could imagine for the 21st century," said Brown. "Over the past two decades, the leadership of our Board of Trustees and the efforts of our students, faculty and staff have proven those words to be true. As we begin the 21st year in our shared endeavor to help this institution realize its immense potential is an appropriate moment to pause, consider all that has been accomplished and understand that the best days of Arkansas Tech are still to come."
By beginning his 21st year, Brown is now the second-longest serving president in Arkansas Tech history. Only J.W. Hull, president at Arkansas Tech from 1932-67, had a longer tenure among the 11 individuals who have held that office.
When Brown was elected president by the Arkansas Tech Board of Trustees on May 19, 1993, enrollment at the university was 4,730 students, 850 of which lived on campus. The annual institutional budget was $31.6 million, there were 180 full-time faculty members, Arkansas Tech offered 62 programs of academic study and 30 of those programs held accreditations.
In the year before Brown arrived, Arkansas Tech conferred 711 degrees.
Two decades later, enrollment at Arkansas Tech is 10,950 —- including 2,668 who chose to live on campus —- the institutional budget is $144.8 million, there are 330 full-time faculty members and Tech offers 123 academic programs of study —- 58 of which are nationally or internationally recognized by accrediting bodies.
The Arkansas Tech freshman class will exceed the national and state averages on the ACT examination for a 19th consecutive year this fall.
During the recently completed 2012-13 academic year, Arkansas Tech conferred 2,617 degrees —- the most in a single academic year in the 104-year history of the institution.
Among all degrees that Arkansas Tech has awarded during those 104 years, 57 percent have been earned during Brown’s two-decade tenure as its president.
In order to provide for its growing and evolving role in education, Arkansas Tech has invested $250 million in its physical plant and instructional equipment since 1995.
Among the new facilities that have been constructed are the Pendergraft Library and Technology Center, the Doc Bryan Student Services Center, Norman Hall, Rothwell Hall, Baswell Techionery, Baswell Residence Hall, Nutt Residence Hall, M Street Residence Hall, University Commons apartments, the Chartwells Women’s Sports Complex and Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field.
In addition, 25 facilities on the Russellville campus experienced significant renovation, the university added a satellite campus in Ozark, the Lake Point Conference Center was acquired and the institution became a founding member of the NCAA Division II Great American Conference during the first two decades of the Brown presidency.
"Arkansas Tech has many tasks that it carries out on a day-to-day basis, but our university has just one mission," said Brown. "Everything we do is designed to provide students with the tools necessary to persist to graduation and realize the life-changing benefits of a college degree. By maintaining that singular focus, we will continue to provide for the educational needs of our constituents and serve as a driving force in the economic development of our state."
Charles Blanchard of Russellville, chairman of the Arkansas Tech Board of Trustees, spoke at the end of Friday morning’s faculty and staff meeting.
"For 21 years, Bob Brown has been an associate and a friend," said Blanchard. "We will miss him in the role of president. Just as Dr. Brown is, and we all have a right to be, I am proud of what has occurred at this university over the past two decades. We will carefully and thoughtfully go about the process of selecting the 12th president of Arkansas Tech. Our first job is to establish a selection process by which the Board of Trustees, in discharging our duties, will put forth an inclusive selection process that will include input from people on campus and the communities that this university serves."