By Michael Freeman, Managing Editor
After more than three months of interviews and deliberations, Dr. Royce Money and the Provost Search Committee selected Dr. Jeanine Varner to be the eighth Chief Academic Officer in ACU history. She is succeeding Dr. Dwayne VanRheenen, who announced last October he will retire and move to the West Coast to be closer to his family.
“I have a great deal of confidence in Dr. Varner,” said Money, president of the university, during a Faculty Senate Meeting on Wednesday.
Varner, who served as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, will be assuming the role of Provost, beginning June 1. She said she found out about her new job Monday.
“My reaction was real gratitude,” Varner said. “I was happy to hear about it and eager to share it with my family. I’m just really grateful for this opportunity that has come my way.”
The Provost Search Committee, chaired by Dr. MaLesa Breeding, dean of the College of Education and Human Services, narrowed the search to two finalists earlier this month: Varner and Dr. Rob Stewart, interim senior vice provost for Texas Tech University. Money made the final decision on whom to hire based on whom he thought was most qualified and would best adjust to the new role of Provost.
“The whole process was impressive to me,” Money said. “I firmly believe that I could not have made a wrong choice. Dr. Varner is thoroughly familiar with our current economic challenges as well as academic challenges. And I think it is important not to lose any time at this point, but to keep going in the direction our 21st Century Vision calls us to go. It would’ve been difficult for someone to come in to understand that at the level she does.”
Varner and Stewart met with numerous groups, including the entire faculty, during the past two weeks for them each to have two full days of intensive interviews. The decision to pick Varner came after the Provost Search Committee had looked at numerous candidates since November.
“Officially, my start date is June 1,” Varner said. “But even now, my task will be to facilitate a smooth transition as Dr. VanRheenen plans to move to the West Coast. I’ve greatly admired his academic leadership.”
VanRheenen had served as the university’s Provost since 1996. The university will sponsor a ceremony honoring his service at ACU on May 4.