Gilchrist announces resignation

Published 8:54 am Monday, May 20, 2013

ELIZABETH CITY – Elizabeth City State University Chancellor Willie J. Gilchrist, who has led his alma mater for nearly seven years, informed the campus community Friday morning that he is resigning his position and plans to formally retire from the University on June 30.

In a press release sent Friday to this newspaper and other media outlets, Gilchrist – former Superintendent of the Northampton County and Halifax County Public School systems – said his decision is in the best interests of ECSU, the University of North Carolina system, and his family.

UNC President Tom Ross will soon name an interim chancellor to lead the campus during the search for a permanent successor.

“It has been an absolute pleasure to lead this university, its faculty, staff and students on a path that continues to ‘Elevate Higher and Emerge Stronger’,” Gilchrist said in announcing his decision to step down. “While I am grateful for the opportunity to have served over the last seven years, I am eagerly anticipating and look forward to spending more time with my family, along with the other opportunities that retirement will bring.”

The Rev. Vonner G. Horton, senior pastor of New Oxley Hill Baptist Church in Merry Hill and a member of the ECSU Board of Trustees, said she was surprised over Gilchrist’s sudden departure as well as the recent round of allegations made against the university, which include accusations that eventually led to the resignation of the ECSU Chief of Police and an SBI investigation regarding alleged witness intimidation and obstruction of justice. As requested via an email sent Friday by ECSU Board of Trustees Chairman Abdul Rasheed, Horton said she was instructed to forward all inquiries from the media to Rasheed.

“We appreciate Dr. Gilchrist’s service to our university and for the progress the university made under his tenure,” said Rasheed during a Friday afternoon telephone conversation with the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. “We wish the best for him and his family in their future endeavors.”

When asked if Gilchrist’s sudden decision to resign was impacted by the recent chain of events at the campus, Rasheed responded, “That question needs to be answered by Dr. Gilchrist. The investigation into these allegations is ongoing, so I cannot answer any questions on these matters until the investigation is complete. As to what led Dr. Gilchrist to choose this particular time to resign, I again stress that he would be the best source of information to answer why he reached that decision.”

In the wake of how a sexual assault complaint was handled, ECSU Police Chief Sam Beamon was placed on administrative leave April 25, according to university officials. He resigned May 10.

The SBI investigation was linked to an alleged sexual battery case in a campus dorm room. According to statewide media reports, Anthony Butler Jr. was charged in the incident. Butler was a temporary residence security officer and volunteer women’s basketball coach at the university.

Additionally, information just recently surfaced that alleged ECSU officials reported zero sexual assaults on campus, from 2007-2011, to the US Department of Education. However, the Elizabeth City Police Department said they had investigated 18 such complaints on the ECSU campus since 2007.

While a storm of controversy brews at ECSU, the university did make significant gains under Gilchrist’s leadership, to include:

Ranked among the Top Baccalaureate Colleges in the South by U.S. News & World Report in its “America’s Best Colleges” issue (2010);

Launched successful academic program in aviation, acquiring two airplanes and a state-of-the-art traffic control system, flight radar system, and flight simulators for student instruction;

Constructed state-of-the art Education Complex, Pharmacy Complex, and a new residence Hall;

Achieved clean financial audits (2010-11 and 2011-12);

Achieved full reaccreditation by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools with “no findings” (2010);

School of Business and Economics, Department of Music, and Department of Engineering and Technology achieved national accreditation;

Implemented Chancellor Young Voyagers program (2008);

Nearly doubled grants and sponsored program funding, from $8 million to $15 million (2006-2012);

Executed memorandum of understanding with University of Zululand;

Executed 44 memoranda of understanding with North Carolina community colleges;

Increased private giving and alumni participation; and

Won CIAA championships in men’s basketball, bowling, and volleyball, and well as the 2012 Pioneer Bowl in football.

A 1973 graduate of ECSU, Gilchrist has devoted his 40-year career entirely to public education.  He served as a classroom teacher, counselor, principal, and school superintendent before entering higher education administration.  He was named interim chancellor of ECSU in September 2006 and has served as chancellor since March 2007.  He also served on the UNC Board of Governors from 2001 – 2006 and has received numerous awards and recognitions for his contributions to education and his service to children.

ECSU enrolls nearly 2,500 students in 37 baccalaureate programs and three masters degree programs. Its athletic programs are a part of the historic CIAA Conference, which also includes Chowan University in Murfreesboro.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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