Editor’s note: Story substantially updated with additions and changes throughout.
Dr. Kelly Damphousse routinely receives emails from agencies seeking administrative candidates at universities across the country. When he received an email in late April from Arkansas State University President Chuck Welch asking him if might be interested in the university’s chancellor’s job, he almost pushed delete. The now former dean at the University of Oklahoma’s College of Arts and Sciences is pleased he didn’t.
He was named ASU’s new chancellor Wednesday (May 17) morning. He will replace interim Chancellor Doug Whitlock on July 1.
“A new era for Arkansas State University begins today,” Welch said from inside the Fowler Center on the ASU-Jonesboro campus.
A formal contract hasn’t be signed, but according to an agreement reached by Damphousse and ASU, he will be paid $360,000 per year with public and private funds. His contract will run through 2020, but an additional year can be added each year he receives a satisfactory evaluation from Welch. He will also receive another $40,000 per year from private funds if he receives a satisfactory evaluation. If he’s still under contract by 2022, he will receive an additional $100,000 longevity payment that will be paid for through private funds. He will also be granted full tenure in the ASU College of Liberal Arts as a sociology professor.
A house, car, cell phone, health insurance, and other benefits are also part of his compensation package. A “just cause” termination clause will be in his contract, and its definitions will be outlined.
Damphousse told Talk Business & Politics his immediate goals are to foster strong relationships with the faculty and staff and his first priority this fall will be to raise the school’s retention rates. He was brought to tears at one point talking about the support he has received from his wife, Beth.
“This is a place where we can see ourselves being … we are very humble to be here,” Damphousse said with his wife sitting nearby.
Damphousse (DAMF-iss) has served as dean or interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at OU in Norman since 2013. The college is the university’s largest and most diverse, with an annual budget of $100 million, 31 academic and research units offering 60 degrees, 1,000 full-time faculty and staff and more than 9,000 students. He previously served as associate dean of the college for nine years. He has worked as OU’s faculty athletics representative to the Big 12 Conference and NCAA since 2012.
An advisory committee, composed of students, faculty, administrators, and others was formed to find a new chancellor after former Chancellor Tim Hudson resigned under fire in August. The committee interviewed three finalists from a pool of 52 applicants. Some were less qualified than others, Welch said with a laugh. A hotel clerk and rock climbing instructor were among those who applied.
The criteria for the new hire was established by Welch and the committee. Strong communications skills, an ability to raise money, and other factors were considered.
One thing that separated Damphousse was that he still teaches students, and he and his wife live on the OU campus, he said. After the final interviews were completed, Welch said he knew who he wanted to hire, but he wanted to petition committee members. Members voted 20-0 for Damphousse, he said. The other finalists for the job, Dr. Ronald Elsenbaumer, interim provost and vice-president for academic affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington; and Dr. Alan Shao, dean of the School of Business at The College of Charleston in South Carolina were solid candidates, but Damphousse surpassed expectations, Welch said.
Damphousse, a native of western Alberta, Canada, worked at one time as a prison guard before entering academia. He is a sociologist by trade. When he first read the email April 24, the deadline to apply was fast approaching, he said. He and Welch talked a short-time later, and the ASU president said he knew this was the right candidate, he said.
When Damphousse arrived on the ASU campus, he was impressed by the beauty of the surroundings, the youthful look of the new buildings. The school’s aggressive push to partner with a campus opening in Mexico, its new medical school, and the slated opening of a convention center next year, tantalized him, he said. Those were motivators, but when he ate lunch with the students, he decided he wanted to stay here, even though one student during lunch stole his pudding.
“You’ve heard that saying ‘you had me at hello.’ Well, you had me at 1 p.m.,” Damphousse said to a chorus of laughter.
Incoming student-body president Haley Stotts met with all three finalists, and Damphousse stood out, she said. Stotts, who is a creative media major and will be a senior next year was impressed that the couple lived on campus, and Beth showed them a homemade scrap book filled with pictures. After the visit, Damphousse sent the students he met with personal emails thanking them.
“They just seemed so genuine,” Stotts said.
Chancellor Tim Hudson resigned under fire in August 2016. Controversy erupted after it was learned during an internal audit that Hudson tried to hire his wife, Dr. Deidra Hudson as the school’s full-time studies abroad director. The appointment would have been a violation of state law. When Dee Dee Hudson couldn’t take the permanent job, Hudson stalled the hiring of a director so that his wife could remain in charge of the program in a part-time capacity that didn’t violate state law. The audit revealed the program was chronically mismanaged.
A student exchange program was started in Lanjaron, Spain, by Dee Dee Hudson. ASU, at the direction of Tim Hudson, funneled at least $250,000 to Multisense, a company that provided assistance to students who were in the program. Multisense is owned by Grupo Sense. Tim Hudson sat on Grupo Sense’s board at one time, according to the audit.
He also hired Pablo Rubio, the son of Grupo Sense’s CEO Alfonso Rubio, to a $70,000 per year job working out of the chancellor’s office, according to the audit. Emails revealed that Hudson was in contact in October 2015 with a businessman in Spain to discuss the Spanish language program on the proposed ASU-Mexico campus that the university has partnered to build in Mexico. At one point, the businessman tells Hudson he would be interested in overseeing the program.
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. His case is still under prosecutorial review, Prosecutor Scott Ellington told Talk Business & Politics last week. When a decision will be render has not been released. Hudson could also be the subject of an Arkansas Ethics Commission review, but the agency is mandated to not disclose any investigations it may or may not be involved in.
Hudson was hired in February as the interim executive director for the Center for Extended and International Education at Austin Peay State University. Austin Peay officials have acknowledged that Hudson was forthcoming about his tenure at ASU, and they are aware of his pending, potential legal issues.
Talk Business & Politics will update this story later today.