UAPB welcomes new leader

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff entered a new era July 1 with the arrival of Laurence B. Alexander, who took up the post of chancellor succeeding interim Chancellor Calvin Johnson, who in turn had served since the May 25, 2012 retirement of longtime Chancellor Lawrence A. Davis Jr.

The beginning of Alexander’s tenure at UAPB has been voted the No. 5 local news story of 2013 by The Commercial’s newsroom staff.

Alexander was announced as the new chancellor Feb. 28.

“I am really honored and humbled all at the same time to have the opportunity to succeed someone of Dr. Davis’ stature who has done such great things for UAPB and who has been a driving force for the last more than two decades,” Alexander said shortly after his selection. “He has done an exceptional job as chancellor and those are some mighty big shoes to fill. I am honored to be the one to follow him and to build on his success; build on what has been a great foundation.”

“I look forward to beginning a new era for UAPB that we anticipate will be marked and identified by the growth, size and stature of its academic programs; the development of its students for graduation and success; and by the advancement of the university in a number of respects to achieve all that it can be,” Alexander said in February.

Alexander spoke with The Commercial in early July on the second day of his tenure as chancellor and laid out several goals.

“One of the things that will likely happen is that this will become a more diverse campus,” Alexander said in July. “I can foresee the day pretty soon where it is more diverse and everyone is benefiting from that diversity. At the same time, UAPB will always be a historically black university. There will be no overall change in student enrollment or population that steers away from that history and this school’s mission.”

Alexander said UAPB will continue to serve students from low-income backgrounds and continue to produce only the highest quality alumni.

“The university has to put its very limited resources behind helping those students who are able to achieve and able to be admitted,” Alexander said. “We also need to be ready to provide assistance to those students. Those who can’t make it should be counseled on how to reach the skill level needed for admission.”

Alexander said the admissions department will work to ensure that only those committed to their own success will become Golden Lions.

“You want people who have demonstrated their academic ability at the high-school level,” Alexander said. “Letters of recommendation ought to be determiners in saying where our very limited resources should be placed.”

Alexander said bringing up the school’s student enrollment numbers is the top priority for his administration.

Alexander used the annual Alumni Assembly on Oct. 18 during UAPB Homecoming Week to inform the enthusiastic graduates of his plans.

“I am grateful, humbled and honored to be part of the pride at UAPB,” Alexander said to the alumni. “I’m here because I believe in the mission of historically black colleges and universities. I have found that UAPB is a real gem in the University of Arkansas System. As a native of the Deep South I am keenly aware of the history of this institution and am also excited about this university’s potential.”

Alexander presented the alumni with a pair of challenges and asked for their help in achieving them.

“We need all of our alumni to help us achieve the next level of greatness,” Alexander said. “We seek to increase student enrollment to 4,000 within the next two years; from 2,600 now to 4,000 in two years.”

“Can we do it with the help of the alumni?” Alexander asked.

“Yes we can,” came the reply from many of the alumni.

“We also need our alumni to help us raise $2 million in the next two years,” Alexander said. “We need our alumni to help us identify the top students in their areas and encourage them to consider UAPB. We want UAPB to be a destination university.”

Alexander said that once he was told what the Alumni Assembly was all about he became excited.

“I got a little giddy,” Alexander said. “I was told that the assembly is where the alumni give the chancellor money. So I got a little giddy.”

Alexander said he was sincerely grateful to the alumni for all that they do to support the university.

“We depend on you all,” Alexander said. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”