ASU-Newport chancellor retires after 41 years in higher education

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published June 23, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated June 21, 2013 at 11:44 a.m.
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Nick Hillemann

Larry Williams, chancellor of Arkansas State University-Newport, will retire in August. He has held the position since the campus opened 12 years ago and said he plans on spending time with his grandchildren and traveling.

— After a 41-year career as a higher-education administrator, Larry Williams is making plans for his upcoming retirement from Arkansas State University-Newport.

His last day as chancellor of the university will be Aug. 30.

Williams, now 66, began his stint at ASU-Newport in 2001, when the college began. He has been the first and only chancellor of the school.

“I spent 29 years at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in Okmulgee before coming here,” Williams said.

Williams became involved in the higher-education system after spending time in the military fighting in Vietnam.

“At the time, the federal government came up with an early out for [people] who were interested in going back to college,” Williams said.

He then went to OSU to pursue a master’s degree in counseling.

“I just found a niche with that,” Williams said.

His first job in higher education was doing high school and college relations.

“I helped students figure out how to go [to college], how to pay [their tuition] and select their majors,” Williams said.

He made his way up through the rankings at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology during his 29 years there.

“I was director of admissions, vice president for student affairs and executive vice president; then I became chancellor at ASU-Newport,” Williams said.

Coming from Oklahoma to Arkansas, Williams said, he has enjoyed the people he interacts with in the city of Newport.

“It’s just a very warm, accepting community,” he said.

On his title of chancellor, Williams said, the definition varies in different states.

At smaller schools, such as ASU-Newport, the chancellor has the same role as the president of a college, Williams said.

During his 12 years at ASU-Newport, he said, he has seen the campus grow immensely and is proud of the progress the school has made during his time as chancellor.

“When I got here, there was no office,” Williams said. “It was previously a branch of ASU-Beebe.”

Out of 22 community colleges in Arkansas, ASU-Newport was 22nd in enrollment in 2001. The school is now eighth in size, Williams said.

He said students at ASU-Newport choose a community college because of the size of the campus and student population.

“A lot of individuals are intimidated by large institutions, but here, the classes are potentially smaller,” Williams said.

The student enrollment has risen during his time at the school as well, Williams said.

“The student population went from 500 to 2,060,” he said. “It’s been a great journey, and we’ve seen significant growth.”

Along with the student population growing, Williams has helped the campus as a whole grow to meet the students’ needs.

“We’ve had 12 building projects [during my time] — almost one per year,” Williams said.

The college has also added another program of study every year Williams has been at the school.

Being able to brag on the people who work at ASU-Newport also makes Williams feel good about his time at the school, he said.

“I know that I’ve got a good team working with students to attain their educational goals,” he said.

Before he officially retires, Williams said, he will still assist with projects on campus and act as a consultant on the Newport Economic Development Commission, which he has also been part of for the past 12 years.

He will act as a mentor, or consultant, for the person who is hired to fill the chancellor spot at ASU-Newport and answer questions the new chancellor might have.

And Williams plans to continue as a member of the Merchants and Planters Bank Board of Directors, which he has served on for several years.

He will maintain a residence in Newport, he said, even though he and his wife plan on spending time at their lakehouse on Lake Tenkiller in Oklahoma.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to see my grandchildren more frequently, and I’ll get to travel more,” Williams said.

Williams’ biological daughters live in Virginia and Texas, but some of his “children” live in other countries.

He and his wife have been host families to international exchange students over the years.

“I have a ‘daughter’ in England and a ‘son’ in Germany,” Williams said. “Now I’ll be able to reconnect with those students.”

In one instance, his “daughter” from England stayed with the Williams family while she was in high school and came back to do clinicals for medical school at the hospital in Newport, he said.

Although retirement will give Williams more time to spend with his family, he said he will miss the faculty, staff and students of ASU-Newport.

“There is nothing more rewarding than the smiles on graduation night,” Williams said. “You realize that small role you played in making their lives better.”

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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