The American Association of State Colleges and Universities said Tuesday that Arkansas State University System President Chuck Welch will become its new president and CEO effective Jan. 15.
Welch was named the second president of the ASU System in November 2010 and officially began the position in April 2011. He will leave as the longest-tenured higher education president or chancellor in Arkansas, according to a statement from the ASU System.
Welch will move to Washington, D.C., for the job with the national organization of 350 public colleges, universities and systems. He will succeed Mildred García, who led the association for more than five years before becoming chancellor of the California State University in October.
Christy Clark of Little Rock, a member of the ASU System's board of trustees, said the board will meet at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday via Zoom to discuss plans to find Welch's successor.
"We are deeply saddened about Dr. Welch's resignation as president of the ASU System, but we are excited for him and his family and the opportunity they have been given," Clark said in a news release.
"Dr. Welch has provided the ASU System with exemplary leadership and has strengthened us in his tenure. Under his leadership, the system has grown from four to seven member institutions plus a campus in Mexico. He has appointed each sitting chancellor and helped us improve and maintain our financial stability. In short, we are better today than when Dr. Welch became president, and we are grateful for his exceptional service and dedication to the campuses we serve."
Welch served as chair of the AASCU board of directors from 2019-2021, including being elected to a second term during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement, he said joining the organization full time is "obviously a bittersweet career move for me."
"I love the ASU System and the team we've put together, and I'm proud of our accomplishments," he said. "But this is a terrific opportunity with an organization I believe in, and I'm excited to promote the likes of AASCU member institutions like Arkansas State University and Henderson State University with this national higher education platform.
"America's regional public colleges and universities are on the front lines of transforming public higher education, driving civic engagement and contributing to thriving local communities. It's an honor to join AASCU at a time when regional comprehensive universities are poised to make a critical impact."
AASCU said its members include state colleges, universities and higher education systems, including 95% of the nation’s public historically Black colleges and universities and 64% of public four-year Hispanic-serving Institutions. Members have an average annual tuition of less than $9,000 for in-state, full-time undergraduates and award 43% of public, four-year bachelor’s degrees conferred in the U.S. annually, according to the organization’s website.
"We are thrilled to welcome Chuck Welch as the new president and CEO of AASCU," said Ronald S. Rochon, chair of the AASCU board of directors, president of the University of Southern Indiana, and co-chair of the AASCU presidential search committee. "He stood out for his exceptional vision, strategic mindset, and deep commitment to AASCU’s mission and values. We believe his dynamic leadership will drive our association to new heights in service to the 3.2 million diverse students AASCU educates."
Based in Little Rock, the ASU System serves about 35,000 students annually and includes Arkansas State University, a four-year research institution in Jonesboro with an additional campus in Queretaro, Mexico, and Henderson State University, a four-year institution in Arkadelphia.
The system grew dramatically during Welch’s time there. Expansion initiatives include the merger of Mid-South Community College in West Memphis (now ASU Mid-South); the opening of New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State; opening the $100 million privately funded campus in Queretaro; the merger of College of the Ouachitas in Malvern (now ASU Three Rivers); the merger of Henderson State University in Arkadelphia; and the public-private partnership to develop the Embassy Suites Hotel and Red Wolf Convention Center on the A-State campus. The system also moved its headquarters to Little Rock near the state Capitol.
A Jonesboro native, Welch is co-chair of the executive council of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. He previously served as president of HSU; chancellor of the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope; vice chancellor for academic affairs at ASU-Beebe; and dean of university studies at University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College. Welch also worked at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and has served as an instructor of education and political science at three different colleges in Arkansas.
He is past president of the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges and served as chairman of the board of the Arkansas Association of Public Universities.