New UCA President Allen Meadors Called a Uniter

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Jul. 13, 2009 12:00 am  

Allen C. Meadors and Lu Hardin have at least one thing in common: They've disappointed many at the institutions they once led.

But the disappointment caused by Meadors, the new president of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, is very different from that caused by Hardin, UCA's former chief. When Meadors, 62, left his job as chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke to take the UCA post, people at UNCP cried over the loss.

"We were sad when we found out he was leaving, but we greatly respect him wanting to return to help his alma mater out," said Breeden Blackwell, chairman of the UNCP board of trustees. "We really will have a void in leadership trying to replace him."

Blackwell, an alumnus of Pembroke State College, the forerunner of UNCP, said Meadors' departure had saddened the entire board and the community of Pembroke, a college town of 2,399.

"There were a lot of tears when we had his final goodbye the other night."

A faculty member, a student leader and the head of the 216,000-student University of North Carolina system echoed the sentiment.

"At his farewell dinner, there were quite a few tears," said Tony Curtis, chairman of UNCP's faculty senate. "We're just sorry to see him go," said Wade Allen, a senior at the university and editor of The Pine Needle, the student newspaper.

If Meadors accomplishes at UCA what he's credited with achieving in his 10 years at UNCP, the students, employees and supporters of the Conway institution may look back and see the silver lining in the storm clouds of the Lu Hardin controversy: an opportunity to install a leader described as open, accessible, dedicated, hard working and honest.

"Allen's the kind of guy you trust with your checkbook," Blackwell said.

Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina system and White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, said UNCP "was truly transformed under [Meadors'] leadership."

"I would have loved to have kept him," said Bowles, who heads a higher education system that comprises 17 different institutions. "He did a fabulous job at this university. He is a leader in every sense of that word, and central Arkansas has gotten a gem.

"This guy left UNCP stronger and healthier than he found it. He made the surrounding community a better and more attractive place to live, work and raise a family. I think that's a legacy any true leader could be proud of. Our loss is certainly Arkansas' gain."



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