by Max Brantley
ARKADELPHIA – Dr. Charles Welch has been named Henderson State University’s 15th president. Welch, who is chancellor at University of Arkansas Community College at Hope, will officially assume presidential duties at Henderson on July 1.
The announcement was made Monday, Feb. 25, at press conference on the Henderson campus.
“I plan to spend time between now and July getting to know you and the campus better,” Welch told a capacity crowd in the Garrison Center banquet room. “I will meet with faculty, staff, students, alumni and members of the community about what we want our university to become and to insure that I have a diverse and comprehensive understanding of the issues and challenges facing the university.”
Welch, 34, succeeds Dr. Charles Dunn who will retire at the end of June. Dunn served as Henderson’s president for 22 years.
Monday’s announcement followed a lengthy search process led by a diverse committee of faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members and Board of Trustees President Bruce Moore. The committee received 57 applications and chose 12 semi-finalists before narrowing the list to three and forwarding the names to the trustees.
Each finalist visited the Henderson campus in February and met with the Board of Trustees. The trustees gathered for a special session Feb. 23 and considered the three finalists before choosing Welch.
“We had a very open and inclusive process,” said Moore. “We had some great candidates… our job was hard. The search committee clearly met its challenge by sending us three great candidates.
“I’m excited about the future of Henderson with Dr. Welch,” Moore said. “He’s a visionary and he’s energetic. We really feel like his selection will help us take the university to the next level.”
Welch called for a collaborative process in shaping Henderson’s future. “I will foster a strong, shared governance system and maintain open lines of communication,” he said. “I will regularly meet with students, faculty, staff and alums. Henderson will develop a reputation as a university committed to partnerships.”
Emphasizing Henderson’s role in Arkadelphia and the state, Welch said, “I believe Henderson State is uniquely positioned to be a catalyst in changing the future of our local community and the region.”
He also vowed to promote Henderson’s successes. “I will spend every ounce of energy I have insuring our story is told,” Welch said. “I will tell the story of the rich history and proud tradition of the university.”
Welch told his audience to “Get ‘Reddie’ to build an even stronger university. Get ready for Henderson State University because we’re about to take the lead in higher education in this state.”
Welch has been chancellor at University of Arkansas Community College at Hope since 2005. He is the chief executive officer of the college and acts as the lead professional advisor to the president. Welch was vice chancellor for academic affairs at Arkansas State University-Beebe from 2003-2005, and he served as dean of University Studies at Pulaski Technical College in North Little Rock from 2000-2003.
Welch’s career in higher education began in 1997 when he served as an adjunct instructor of political science at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock until 2003. He was a doctoral student/graduate assistant at UALR from 1999-2000. He also served as an adjunct instructor of political science at Hendrix College in 2000.
Welch graduated from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, in 1995 with a bachelor degree in political science. He earned his masters in political management from George Washington University in Washington D.C., in 1997. Welch received his doctor of education in higher education administration in 2003 from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In 2005, he attended the Harvard Seminar for First-Year Presidents at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
In 1995, Welch served as a White House intern for the Office of Cabinet Affairs. He also served as an intern for U.S. Sen. David Pryor that same year, and then became intern coordinator for then-U.S. Rep. Blanche Lincoln. Welch re-joined Pryor’s staff as a legislative assistant, before he became assistant to the Arkansas state treasurer. Welch served as the director of field operations for the Democratic Party of Arkansas from 1998-1999.
Welch is active in numerous higher education activities. He was president of the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges in 2007, and serves as a consultant-evaluator for Peer Review Corps of the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
In 2005, Arkansas Business selected Welch to 40 Under 40, which profiled 40 “intriguing business and political leaders under age 40.” He has been active in the communities where he has worked, serving on a variety of boards and committees.
Welch and his wife Mandy, have two children.
Henderson State University is Arkansas’s public liberal arts university, offering its 3,600 students an education based on a comprehensive core of courses in the arts and sciences. Henderson is proud to be the only school in Arkansas that is a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, which identifies and supports high quality public liberal arts and sciences institutions. Henderson was ranked in the top tier of masters universities in the U.S. News & World Report 2008 edition of “America’s Best Colleges.”
While the arts and sciences form the foundation for all academic programs at Henderson, the university has an excellent professional program reputation in the fields of teacher education, business administration, aviation, and nursing.
The academic program at Henderson is divided into three colleges. The Matt Locke Ellis College of Arts and Sciences offers a comprehensive core of liberal arts courses, with majors in disciplines from fine arts and the social sciences to technology and the natural sciences. The School of Business offers the bachelor of business administration degree, and it also runs the program leading to the B.S. degree in aviation. Teachers College, Henderson receives national recognition for the quality of its mentor-teacher program for first-year teachers.
Henderson’s campus continues to expand, and more students are choosing Henderson as their university of choice. On-campus enrollment has hit a 12-year high. A large freshman class contributed to the increase, with over 800 new students enrolled last fall. The incoming class is about a third larger than last year’s freshman class and that bodes well for future enrollment growth.
Henderson was founded on March 24, 1890, and was incorporated as Arkadelphia Methodist College. It was chartered as a four-year, coeducational baccalaureate liberal arts college. The College opened on Sept. 3, 1890, with 110 students and 10 faculty members.