Community reacts to Davis resignation plans

Community reaction to the news that University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Chancellor Lawrence A. Davis Jr. is resigning has included expressions of concern and regret in addition to an appreciation for his accomplishments while head of the university.

Thursday morning, Davis announced his resignation effective May 25.

District 7 Justice of the Peace and UAPB professor Vannette Johnson had praise for the job done by Davis and was sorry to hear the news of his intent to step down.

“I think he was doing a wonderful job,” Johnson said. “I hate that whatever prompted his resignation led to this. I have read the articles about what has been happening related to the audit of the dormitories. As head of the institution I am sure he didn’t condone those types of activities but in situations such as this the person in charge is usually held responsible.”

“I’ve known him since he was a youngster,” Johnson said. “I coached him in basketball.”

Carolyn Blakely, former UAPB interim chancellor and retired dean of the Honors College, appreciates all that Davis has done for the university.

“I regret seeing him go out right now,” Blakely said. “I think there was more he wanted to do. The university will experience a loss and a void that needs to be filled.”

“I have known him since we were in high school,” Blakely said. “He did a number of wonderful, great things both with the physical plant and the academic program at UAPB. While I was there I recognize the fact that he was an asset for the community and the state in getting students prepared to go into various communities here in Arkansas and globally. I always thought he had the best interests of the students in mind while I was there.”

Jay Bradford, a former state legislator from Pine Bluff and current Arkansas Insurance Department Commissioner, said that Davis was instrumental in getting the university funding formula used by the University of Arkansas system revised.

“Under his direction he worked hard for a funding formula that was fair to all universities,” Bradford said. “It placed UAPB on an equal footing on a per student basis with every other university in the system. That in itself was a great accomplishment. One reason the inequities in the formula were corrected was because of the respect that other university head had for Chancellor Davis.”

“He will certainly be missed and should certainly be proud of his tenure at the university,” Bradford said. “The university has advanced light years since he became chancellor. He has been diligent and hard-working. Being a Pine Bluffian almost raised on the UAPB campus he is probably ready for a change.”

Simmons First National Corp. Chairman and CEO J. Thomas May counts Davis as a personal friend.

“He is a good friend, a fine and tremendous citizen of Pine Bluff, Jefferson County and the state of Arkansas,” said May, who has also served on the U of A Board of Trustees. “His leadership in higher education and in our community has been tremendous. I consider him a personal friend and I am amazed at all of the things that he has accomplished in his over 20 years as chancellor.”

“I’ve known Chancellor Davis and his wife Ethyl for over 25 years,” May said. “They are both wonderful people and I am proud to be counted among their friends. I have played golf with the chancellor. I have attended functions in his home. I have worked with him on numerous community projects, and last but not least, I have watched him lead by example in both community service and in developing a stronger relationship between UAPB and our community.”

“UAPB is a much better University because of Chancellor Lawrence Davis,” May said. “Pine Bluff is a much better community because of Chancellor and Mrs. Davis and I consider myself a better person for having had the opportunity to know and serve with both of them.”

Bill Jones, President of Sissy’s Log Cabin, has worked with Davis on projects including the fundraising effort to build the Tori Hunter Baseball Complex at UAPB.

“My first reaction is I am saddened by the news,” Jones said. “He will be difficult to replace. Those are big shoes to fill.”

“He has done more for UAPB than he will ever get credit for,” Jones said. “I have been involved in a number of projects with him over the years. So often people are not recognized for their accomplishments until they have gone. He was involved with so many building projects over the past 20 years. It is endless what he has done for the UAPB community. He does so much for what is best for the community at UAPB and does things along the right lines. Pine Bluff will greatly miss him.”