The next leader of Friends University is a teacher at heart who also brings 30 years of experience in higher education.
Friends University, the region’s leading Christian-based liberal arts institution, announced today that Dr. T.J. Arant will become its 13th president. He was unanimously selected by the Friends University Board of Trustees and will take office July 1, 2011.
Arant, 55, has served as executive vice president of Mount Olive College in North Carolina, since 2008. Mount Olive College is the fifth largest private college in North Carolina.
A six-month nationwide search, led by a 14-member Presidential Search Committee, identified four highly qualified finalists and Dr. Arant rose to the top.
“T.J. was a stand-out candidate with an outstanding career spanning from chief operating officer to chief academic officer to chief student affairs officer. In each position, he led mission-building efforts that resulted in progress and growth for various liberal arts colleges,” said Rod Pitts, board of trustees chair and Presidential Search Committee chairman. “His engaging nature and proven record combined with a passion for excellence in liberal arts makes him an ideal fit to take our university to the next level.”
Arant said he is excited about the opportunity to build on the excellent programs and strengths Friends University offers its students.
“Finding new ways to serve the Friends University mission and moving it to the next tier will be my focus. In many areas, the university is ready to achieve regional and national recognition. I can’t wait to begin working with the Friends’ community as a team to expand the university’s draw and reputation,” Arant said.
Arant hails from the south with a doctorate in English from Duke University, a master’s in English from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a bachelor’s from Vanderbilt University.
After earning his Ph.D. in 1991, Arant pursued his teaching interests. He quickly moved through the ranks to full professor, teaching at Duke University, Appalachian State University, Notre Dame College and Mount Olive College, and accumulated many teaching honors including Teacher of the Year.
“What excites me most about teaching and education is the power we have to change students’ lives.
In turn, students go out and change 10 lives, 100 lives, 1,000 lives. On a small college campus, you get the chance to grow relationships with those students. Making the personal connection is very important to me. It’s why we’re here.”
From 2000 on, Arant transitioned into executive positions where he led educational institutions with enrollments varying from 1,100 to 4,000 students.
Collaborative leadership, resource development, resource management and a student-centric view have been hallmarks of Arant’s career. At Mount Olive College, he helped lead the reversal of a major budget deficit to create a surplus. During his tenure at Notre Dame College, student enrollment and faculty doubled in size. When serving as head of the East Central Colleges Consortium, Arant helped nine colleges collaborate to serve their missions.
Arant reflects on what he savors most about blending his teaching skills and executive leadership experience. “The best time ever spent is in meeting with one, two, three or four people trying to solve a problem. The excitement doesn’t come because of a job or a deadline, but from the creativity it takes to unknot something and set it right,” Arant said.
He has published extensively and is a known advocate for faculty and leadership development. He has presented to faculty around the nation covering topics ranging from course assessment to academic career planning.
While the role of teacher is among the most fulfilling for Arant, he describes his family as his great joy, his two grown daughters and his wife, Susan, a fundraiser and former director of alumni affairs at a small private college.
An avid health enthusiast, Arant enjoys being active and keeping fit by running and competing in track and field. A fan of the outdoors, Arant likes to garden and has, on more than one occasion, been known to vie to have the first ripe tomato of the season.
Pitts said that a transition team, made up of a broad representation of the university, will assist Arant as he settles into his new position. Long-time Friends University president, Dr. Biff Green, will retire on June 30, 2011 after a successful 20-year career.
For more information about the presidential search process, click here.