By Marty Finley
Monday’s special session of the Board of Regents met with several agenda items to cover, but it seemed like an ordinary meeting on the surface. Until everything changed.
As the meeting moved toward adjournment after an hour and a half closed session, Regent Malcolm Frisbie presented a motion to declare Doug Whitlock the 11th president of Eastern.
A motion was unanimously accepted by the board.
The board meeting originally was scheduled to choose a search firm and begin to comb through presidential candidates.
But the Board decided Monday the right man for the job was here all along.
“We felt it was more prudent to not do a national search at this time and pick a president who we knew could do the job,” said Hunter Bates, chair of the Board of Regents.
Regent Orson Oliver explained further.
“Going through a national process is not a guarantee for success; we have the right guy for the job,” he said.
Regent Teresa Barton agreed with Oliver and Bates, saying she heard nothing but good things from faculty and staff, a fact the board said played a pivotal role in its decision to choose Whitlock as president.
“I say we take this opportunity as a real opportunity,” Barton said.
SGA President and Student Regent David Fifer said he wanted the decision to be the right one for the institution and the students it serves. He said he believed choosing Whitlock was the right choice.
The board said it also looked at the example given by the University of Louisville, which chose its latest president in 2002 in the same fashion Eastern picked Whitlock.
Whitlock was chosen as the interim president Aug. 14 after beating out four other applicants in an interview process spanning several hours.
The board chose Whitlock for his knowledge of Eastern administration, local and state government and familiarity with local people. In addition, he had spent nearly 30 years of his career as an Eastern administrator, serving as executive assistant to the president from 1976 to 1998 and vice president of administrative affairs from 1998 to 2003.
Bates said the decision to choose Whitlock as president will save the university approximately $100,000 it would have spent on a search firm. But, more importantly, he said it will give the university the stability it needs.
“What this spares the university is uncertainty, distraction and possibly mistakes,” he said.
Bates said the Board will amend Whitlock’s contract, which was previously a one-year deal of $250,000 to end July 31, 2008.
Whitlock’s new contract is set to expire July 31, 2010, and he will get a pay raise equal to the percentage other faculty and staff receive at Eastern annually.
Approaching the lectern to a standing ovation, Whitlock did not let the moment stop his sense of humor.
“I’m almost speechless,” he said. “But not quite.”
Whitlock said he was moved by the response and support he received from the board, faculty, staff and students at Eastern, as well as members of the Richmond community.
He said people in the community expressed a desire for him to keep the job longer and he knew the board was considering extending his contract. However, he was not expecting to receive the job at the end of the meeting
“I didn’t do anything to encourage (the support),” Whitlock said. “Whatever it was, was completely spontaneous.”
He said he will be turning 67 shortly after his contract ends, and he will be ready to move on and spend time with his family at that point. Bates said this is the reason the board extended the contract to three years.
In the meantime, Whitlock said he will work hard to not let anyone down.
“All I can promise is to do my best,” he said.