Dr. Doug Whitlock and his wife, Joanne, planned to spend their 48th wedding anniversary in the quiet solitude of retirement. But Arkansas State University needed a new chancellor to calm the proverbial waters after the controversial exit of former Chancellor Tim Hudson.
The 73-year-old agreed to take the interim chancellor’s position with ASU, meaning the couple will spend their anniversary in Jonesboro. He was introduced Monday on the Jonesboro campus.
“I’ve had two or three opportunities to come out of retirement and serve in an interim basis at other institutions and decided not to … ASU seemed like a natural fit,” Whitlock said.
ASU President Charles “Chuck” Welch told Talk Business & Politics the university needed heal in the wake of Hudson’s sudden departure in August. An internal audit revealed Hudson tried to strong arm his wife into the studies abroad director’s post, a violation of state law. When he discovered she couldn’t serve in the position, he kept it open, allowing her to manage the program on a part-time basis, which was not a violation. The audit revealed the program was chronically mismanaged. Hudson may have also committed other unethical acts during his tenure.
Hudson also received free trips abroad, a violation of state law. He also tried to use his position to influence several medical school admission offices to accept a relative at a reduced tuition cost. These, and other acts by Hudson, could be violations of Arkansas ethics laws. He has not been charged with any ethics violations or crimes to this point.
Welch thinks Whitlock will reassure students, faculty, alumni, and the community that the university is still headed in the right direction. Whitlock will be paid $305,000 to complete the fiscal year which ends June 30. He may possibly be retained on a month-to-month basis depending upon how the hiring of the new, permanent chancellor unfolds, Welch said. Whitlock may also stay with the school to assist in the new chancellor’s transition, but that has not been decided, yet, Welch added.
Whitlock chose the ASU job because the institution is similar to former place of employment, Eastern Kentucky University. Whitlock is a president emeritus at EKU, and came out of retirement once to work as the school’s interim president, Welch said. He was asked to take the permanent president’s job, but he chose to return to retirement, Welch said.
When he began his search, Whitlock’s name quickly rose to the top of the list. After an initial interview, Welch said he was convinced Whitlock was right for the job. Welch spoke with faculty members at EKU, and his former colleagues gave him glowing reviews. One said he would drive to Jonesboro just to work for him again, Welch said.
Many students at his former school are first generation college students, similar to those at ASU, he said. The student demographics are similar and he thinks the campus cultures are comparable, he said. The long-time administrator said he isn’t sure what problems he will tackle during his tenure at ASU. Whitlock plans to conduct extensive meetings with faculty, administrators, and students to get a feel for what is working on the campus and what needs to be improved, he said.
“I have to be honest … I won’t know what needs to be done until I get started,” he said.
ASU is in the process of hiring a studies abroad director. New policies and procedures will be developed in the program by the new director, and it will alleviate the problems in the program, he said. In a light moment, Welch said Whitlock should be able to help with the studies abroad program. Whitlock is fluent in Japanese and has visited the country more than a dozen times, he said.
“There’s just something about being on a college campus … I’m already starting to feel at home here,” Whitlock said.