JACKSON, MS – The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning has named former U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Rod Paige as interim president of Jackson State University on Tuesday, Nov. 1. He will step into the role on Nov. 7.
Dr. Glenn Boyce, IHL commissioner, said, “Jackson State University is a tremendous university. We are in a time of transition. … Dr. Paige has been an educator for life. As a man of stature, this speaks volumes about his love and passion for this university. I’m appreciative that Dr. Page would come forward to serve.”
Boyce said as part of the change the first priority would be to address financial matters, an issues that Paige, who’s coming out of retirement, said he would get a better understanding of after his arrival from Houston, where he currently resides. Jackson State University has played an important role in Dr. Paige story and now he has come home to serve his institution that opened the door to many opportunities that followed.
IHL also named Dr. Evelyn J. Leggette, provost and senior vice president of Academic and Student Affairs at JSU, as acting president until Paige arrives.
“On behalf of the senior leadership, alumni, faculty, staff and students we welcome our outstanding alumnus Rod Paige back to his ‘dear old college home,’ and we look forward to working with him in his role as interim president of Jackson State University.” said Dr. Evelyn J. Leggette. “Jackson State University, has a long distinguished history of providing the best education possible to an excellent student body, with a world class faculty and staff, and more than 40,000 alums serving in various position on the local, state, regional, national and international levels.
“I look forward to working with Dr. Paige as we continue to prepare students to become global leaders through our more than 90 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs; develop more innovative degree and non-degree offerings throughout our six campuses; offer a variety of student engagement and living and learning programs and enhance and build on the success of the university in teaching, research and service.”
Paige, who earned a bachelor’s degree from JSU, succeeds Dr. Carolyn W. Meyers, who resigned last week. In 2001, he became the nation’s seventh top U.S. education official and first African-American in the role after being nominated by President George W. Bush. He oversaw and helped implement the administration’s No Child Left Behind Act. Upon taking office, Dr. Paige learned of wide-scale criminal fraud, waste and abuse within the Department and made improving management one of his priorities, creating the Blueprint for Management Excellence to streamline operation and provide strategic direction, resources and focus for the agency.
Now, Paige becomes only the fourth interim president in the history of JSU, which was founded in 1877. The Monticello, Miss., native and Navy veteran had formerly served as head football coach at JSU from 1964-1968 and was inducted into the JSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1988. Paige, along with wife Stephanie Nellons-Paige, recently served as honorary chairs of the Jackson State University National Alumni Association’s (JSUNAA) Black Tie Scholarship and Recognition Gala.
For 10 years, Dr. Paige served as the Dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University, a comprehensive metropolitan historically black university in Houston that serves more than 9,000 students. While at Texas Southern, Dr. Paige established the university’s Center for Excellence in Urban Education, a research facility that concentrates on issues related on instruction and management in urban school systems.
During his tenure at Texas Southern, Dr. Paige was elected to serve as a trustee and officer of the Board of Education of the Houston Independent School District. In 1994, he left TSU to become superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, which was the nation’s seventh largest school district at the time. Lauded for his innovative approach, Dr. Paige was named National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators in 2001.
IHL will begin the search process for a permanent president at its November board meeting, which is expected to take five to seven months.
For more information, view IHL press release here.