Last week’s announcement that Charles Robinson would become the chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville was a welcome one.
Yes, it’s significant that Robinson, who had been serving as interim chancellor of the UA’s flagship campus, is Black and is the first African American to serve as chancellor. But as Cliff Gibson, chairman of the UA board of trustees, noted, Robinson has “worked his way to the top of the university” during his 23-year tenure there, and “he has earned this.”
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Robinson, who began teaching history at UA-Fayetteville in 1999, led a restructuring of the Division of Student Affairs when he was vice chancellor for student affairs, moving it toward an emphasis on student success. And during his time as interim chancellor, the university has set a record for all enrollment and a record enrollment of Arkansans.
And though UA System President Donald Bobbitt preferred a different candidate, Daniel Reed of the University of Utah, even Bobbitt called Robinson an “inspirational leader.”
Reed also was the choice of Walmart heir Steuart Walton, who lobbied on his behalf, citing Reed’s time at Microsoft Corp. and his “direct industry knowledge of how to build a pipeline for applicable and marketable academic research.”
But Robinson attracted the support of Arkansas business leaders like Dillard’s Inc. CEO William Dillard II and Johnelle Hunt, co-founder of J.B. Hunt Transport Services.
Perhaps most importantly, Robinson is popular on the campus that he has served for so long and that knows him best.
Marketable academic research is important. Student success, however, is more important, and Robinson has demonstrated his dedication to that goal. But he’s a talented, hardworking individual. We’re confident he can take on more than one task at a time.