From: Alabama A&M University
Posted: Friday, September 16, 2005
Huntsville, Ala. ---- Following a one-hour executive session, Alabama A&M University's Board of Trustees today returned to a packed Clyde Foster Multipurpose Room to hand over the realm of the 130-year-old school to a top NASA center administrator.
Dr. Julian Manly Earls, director of the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, since 2003, has been named AAMU's tenth president. His affiliation with the Center dates back to 1968. Dr. Virginia Caples, a long-time AAMU administrator and provost/vice president for academic affairs, served as interim president before and after Dr. John T. Gibson's nine-year presidency, which ended in February.
During a series of public forums on September 15, the three top candidates for the post fielded numerous questions from students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community. At a session in the Dawson Building Auditorium, Earls called the student body the most important group on campus, adding that students should get what they pay for.
So fascinating is the university's history, Earls went on, that the chronicles penned by former AAMU President Richard David Morrison "should be required reading."
Earls is expected to begin his first days with a period of assessment and dialogue to determine much-needed information about various facets of the institution. He is also expected to involve individuals, groups and units in discussions about those actions by which they will be impacted.
Earls earned the B.S. degree in physics in 1964 from Norfolk State University (Va.). He went on to receive the M.S. degree in 1966 in radiation biology from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. He later earned the Ph.D. degree in environmental health from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
When asked during the forum about such concerns as campus upkeep and faculty salaries, Earls responded that under his presidency fundraising would be "critical" and that major efforts would also begin to form vital collaborations. One of Earl's thrusts will include working to increase alumni giving, cultivating students while they are still enrolled; networking with members of various corporate boards; and interacting with CEOs and people who make things happen. Many of the answers to the institution's problems, he said, are only half solved because the problems have not been adequately stated.
When addressing a concern about helping faculty members to become more productive, Earls first noted that student costs should be kept to a minimum, and efforts should be made to ensure that available funds are appropriately distributed. "If you put a spark in faculty," commented Earls, "they will help the students." He offered faculty development opportunities, sabbaticals, and sessions to determine those issues and concerns most critical to faculty and their productivity.
"Customer service," said Earls, "has a lot to do with the people put in place." He said it is vital to have people with the know-how as well as a "solid core" of integrity and a willingness to serve. It is also important, he noted, to see how people treat others "from their level down." While leadership should be accessible, Earls said his early days will require a thorough assessment of "where we are now, where we are going, and what we should stop doing." While growth is fundamental, said Earls, institutions must be able to maintain what they already have.
"The first things people do when funds are low is to cut maintenance," noted Earls. He said that mistake could have disastrous repercussions. AAMU should do more to seek resources "in our own backyard," said Earls.
When asked about his extensive NASA career and the lack of administrative experience in higher education administration, Earls replied, "All institutions involve people."
Caples will continue in the interim post until Earls assumes his duties.
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