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West Liberty University Names W. Franklin Evans President

West Liberty University announced Thursday its historic choice as its 37th president.

The WLU Board of Governors named W. Franklin Evans the university’s next president, assuming the role on Jan. 1. He will be the first African-American president in the university’s 183-year history.

“It is a great honor being selected as the next president of West Liberty University, the oldest and most historic public institution in the state,” Evans said in a release from the university. “I am grateful to the West Liberty University Board of Governors for its confidence and support in my selection to lead this amazing institution.”

Evans comes to West Liberty following a four-year tenure as president of Voorhees College, a private college in Denmark, South Carolina. Prior to his time at Voorhees, Evans served as interim president, provost and chief academic officer at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, as well as vice-president of academic affairs at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia.

“I am pleased to announce that Dr. W. Franklin Evans has accepted our offer and agreed to become West Liberty University’s 37th President,” said Rich Lucas, chairman of the search committee and the Board of Governors. “He will be a strong leader and we welcome him to the Hilltop and look forward to introducing him to our alumni, donors, friends and the wider community,”

Evans emerged as West Liberty’s choice from among four candidates in the latest round of interviews for the job. The others interviewed were Montana State Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Melinda Arnold, Eastern Illinois Provost and Vice President of Academic AffairsJay Gatrell and Mercyhurst University President Michael Victor.

During Evans’ time at SCSU, enrollment exceeded its goal and fundraising increased by 687%, alumni support improved, and the university achieved a balanced budget. At Virginia Union, he was instrumental in leading the institution through a successful reaffirmation of accreditation and establishing an Honors College, along with both a bachelor’s of fine arts and master’s in education degrees.

The Augusta, Georgia, native earned a doctoral degree in higher education administration from Georgia State University. He earned a degree in journalism, middle childhood education, curriculum and instruction, as well as administration and supervision from Georgia State University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in entomology from the University of Georgia in 1984.

The father of two young children, Evans will reside on campus in the President’s home, Colonial Heights.

Evans will take over the role from current university President Stephen Greiner, who has served in the role since January 2016. Greiner had announced in November 2019 his intention to retire on June 30, 2020. He agreed to remain in the role past that date to lead the university through the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the March 2020 delay of the presidential search due to the pandemic.

West Liberty announced in August that it would reopen its search after one of the two finalists had withdrawn from the search prior to a scheduled meeting with the university’s Board of Governors.

“I also want to thank President Greiner for his dedication and leadership during the pandemic and his willingness to see the job through and remain in his role until our new president could be found,” Lucas said.

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