Pearson’s plans and views

Denny Patterson

Last semester, Vice President of Academic Affairs Barry Pearson announced that he would be stepping down from his current position. The email sent out this past November to the Millikin community by former President Harold Jeffcoat stated that Pearson “will return to serve as a member of the Millikin faculty in the College of Fine Arts.” Although Pearson might hold tenure as an instructor of theatre, he has not officially made the decision whether or not he will stay here at Millikin.

“I have been looking at other options,” Pearson said. “I’m looking more out West so I can be closer to family.”

Pearson will end his duties as the Vice President of Academic Affairs on June 30. If he stays at Millikin, his contract within the faculty will begin Aug. 1. Pearson says that he is at the point in his life where it’s time to do a career assessment and it’s important to reflect.

Before Pearson became the Vice President of Academic Affairs, he was an instructor of theatre specializing in acting and directing. He pursued theatre for his undergrad and graduate studies, so he wanted to continue on and teach the art. He says that Millikin was a perfect fit, it had the perfect blend.

Within the past three months, a lot of questions have been looming over the administrative officials here at Millikin. Besides Pearson submitting his resignation last semester, Vice President of Enrollment Rich Dunsworth announced he was leaving Millikin after this year. More recently, Jeffcoat announced his plans to retire the second week after classes resumed from winter break. His announcement was made on a Tuesday, and he was packed and gone by that Friday. With the institution going through a time of transition, some are wondering if those who plan to leave will possibly stay. Will some perhaps come back? Jeffcoat said numerous times that transition should not be a cause for concern; it is simply the norm.

“We were surprised,” Pearson said. “I was surprised and I hope this was a good decision for him [Jeffcoat]. Let’s look at the facts when I resigned in November. I didn’t know that the Vice President of Finance would be gone. I didn’t know at all that the president would be gone. Now that this is all happening, if there was a desire for me to stay and continue my role as the Vice President, I certainly would be open to that discussion. The circumstances have changed. If it would help the institution’s stability, and someone wants to talk to me, I am open to that kind of conversation. I love and care deeply about Millikin. If I can be of help in this time of transition, I will.”

The institution’s reputation is also being questioned. Can the time of transition affect enrollment? Could this much change within a short period of time be a put off to interested students? There are currently numerous search committees in the process of finding interested applicants to fill the open positions, although Pearson is not involved with any of them.

“Certainly the institution is very strong financially and enrollment wise,” Pearson said. “Leadership is always a priority. I think the institution is going forward very well with the leaders it has. Millikin’s reputation can withstand the kind of changes we’re talking about in leadership. It has a 100 plus year history. What’s crucially important is the outstanding faculty and staff. They make this place what it is. So while the leadership may be a cause of concern for some, the faculty and staff here is what makes this place run.”

The plan for a new Vice President of Academic Affairs/Provost to take office will be complete in July. Pearson says it is important that the certain leader will serve the Millikin mission and help the faculty and staff have what they need to accomplish the mission.

“We need someone who is by his or her very nature, transparent,” he said. “Someone who is committed to a student centered environment that focuses on teaching excellence. I know this institution is going to thrive. The strategic plan is in place, we have a devoted faculty staff and the board of trustees bleeds blue – all the ingredients are in place for this place to thrive in the future. I’m convinced of that.”