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3 finalists named for HSU post; visits set

Candidates from outside Arkansas by Jaime Adame | October 19, 2021 at 4:02 a.m.
FILE — Henderson State University is shown in this 2019 file photo.

Three finalists have been named for the chancellor's job at Henderson State University, an approximately 2,900-student campus that last year became a part of the Arkansas State University System after financial struggles.

Finalists set to visit the Arkadelphia campus next week are:

• Charles Ambrose, from 2010-18 president of the University of Central Missouri and most recently leader of education foundation KnowledgeWorks.

From June 2018 until March of this year, Ambrose worked as president and chief executive officer for the Cincinnati-based nonprofit that focuses on K-12 education policy and personalized learning practices, a foundation spokeswoman said.

Ambrose previously led 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.

Ambrose visits Arkadelphia on Monday and Tuesday. He 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 Georgia.

• Jay Gatrell, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Eastern Illinois University. Gatrell has served since 2017 as the top academic officer for the public university with an enrollment of about 8,600.

Gatrell previously was a professor of geography and environmental studies, as well as vice provost for faculty affairs and research, at Bellarmine University, a private Catholic university in Louisville, Ky., according to Eastern Illinois University's website, which states that Gatrell also previously held appointments at Indiana State University and Wright State University in Ohio.

Last October, Gatrell was one of four announced finalists for the president position at West Liberty University, a public university in West Virginia, the Associated Press reported.

Gatrell visits Arkadelphia on Sunday and Monday. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Eastern Michigan University, a master's degree in geography from the University of Toledo and a doctoral degree in geography from West Virginia University.

• Alberto Ruiz, from 2019 until earlier this year vice president for academic affairs at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, a public university with about 8,900 students.

Ruiz currently works as the university's associate athletics director for student-athlete excellence. The northeast Louisiana university last year named Ronald Berry as its president.

"As president of the university, [Berry] has the authority to do what he would like to do as far as his leadership team," Ruiz said in a phone interview Monday when asked why he is no longer vice president for academic affairs.

Ruiz previously worked for 25 years at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, according to the 2019 announcement of his hire at the Louisiana university. From 2009-19, he was an academic dean.

Ruiz visits Arkadelphia on Tuesday and Wednesday. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in kinesiology from Texas A&M University-Kingsville and a doctoral degree in physical education from the University of Houston.

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.

The ASU System's top leader, Chuck Welch, has since described the campus as "in a far better position," but the recent audit report noted a fiscal 2020 operating loss of $3.8 million, even after cost-cutting measures such as a 3% salary decrease for faculty members and "non-classified" staff employees, a term that refers to job positions without a formal pay grade structure.

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

Print Headline: 3 finalists named for HSU post; visits set

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