Ambrose picked to lead Henderson State University; new chancellor brings presidential experience

Submitted photo of Henderson State University Chancellor Charles Ambrose.
Submitted photo of Henderson State University Chancellor Charles Ambrose.

Charles Ambrose, formerly the president of the University of Central Missouri, will be the next top administrator at Henderson State University, the university announced this morning.

Ambrose will begin Nov. 15 as chancellor, taking over leadership of the approximately 2,900-student campus that last year became a part of the Arkansas State University System after financial troubles.

From 2010-18, Ambrose was president of the University of Central Missouri, a public university with an enrollment of about 10,000 students, according to federal data.

Before that, Ambrose served as president of the private Pfeiffer University in North Carolina from 1998-2010.

More recently, from June 2018 until March of this year Ambrose led the education foundation KnowledgeWorks, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit that focuses on K-12 education policy and personalized learning practices.

Chuck Welch, president of the ASU System, in a statement praised Ambrose as a "nationally renowned educator and innovator."

"Dr. Ambrose is experienced in creating efficient and sustainable universities that are focused on student success," Welch said.

Welch, a former president of Henderson State, said Ambrose is "exactly the kind of experienced, visionary leader that we hoped to attract and that Henderson deserves at this critical time in its history."

Henderson State University in fiscal 2019 had an operating loss of $6.1 million in a year where operating costs totaled about $64 million, according to a state Legislative Audit report.

State officials then approved a $6 million loan, the first such loan from the state's Budget Stabilization Trust Fund to a public higher education institution since 2009, when the University of Central Arkansas received such a loan, a state spokesman has said.

Henderson State's former president, Glen Jones, at the time said the financial struggles were tied to unpaid student account balances. Jones stepped down as president in July 2019. State lawmakers held a series of hearings last year about Henderson State's financial struggles.

An interim campus leader, Jim Borsig, began in July 2020. In August, Borsig announced he was resigning due to health reasons.

Ambrose was among three finalists announced last month for the chancellor's job. The other two were Jay Gatrell, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Eastern Illinois University, and Alberto Ruiz, from 2019 until earlier this year vice president for academic affairs at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

In a statement, Ambrose said he and his wife, Kristen, are excited to become a part of the Henderson State community.

"Our collective commitment to student success and meeting the challenges and specific needs of the region and state elevates our anticipation for what is possible at Henderson State. I look forward to being a part of a community that is aggressively elevating that commitment to student success and will help redefine what normal can look like for Henderson State as a member of the ASU System," Ambrose said.

Ambrose earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Furman University, a master's degree in higher education administration from the University of Louisville and a doctoral degree in higher education administration from the University of Louisville.

Ambrose will earn a yearly salary of $250,000 and live on the Henderson State campus in the school's Newberry House, the university announced.

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