The Grambling State University students, faculty and staff welcomed a new member to their family last week.
Dr. Willie D. Larkin was named the ninth president of the university. He is currently serving as chief of staff to the president at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
Larkin said, “Coming from an agricultural, rural background, the oldest of eight children, born to uneducated parents and getting the opportunity to leave that sharecropper farm and go to college and get a college education, most people would say, ‘You’re really not supposed to be where you are. You’re not supposed to have accomplished what you’ve accomplished.’ ”
He continued by saying, “So based on my experience and the opportunities I’ve had, I would love to provide that opportunity for more young people.
“I think I’m a great leader. I think I have a great influence on people. So I’d like to come to Grambling and get an opportunity to demonstrate that my kind of leadership works. My inspiration works, my enthusiasm, my motivation and I think that I can lead by example,” he said.
“Dr. Larkin is a fantastic choice,” said University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley. “It took the board so long because we had two excellent choices. I wish I could have chosen both of them. That’s what I wish.
“We’re very pleased with Dr. Larkin. We think he’s the right candidate for Grambling,” Woodley said.
The selection process started when the ULS board narrowed the list of applicants to eight, posting the biographies and photos on the GSU website so the campus and community could familiarize themselves with the candidates.
The list of eight was whittled down to five semifinalists to be brought to campus to be interviewed, and then to two.
Other than Dr. Larkin, semifinalists were Dr. Wayne Brumfield, Dr. Gilbert Rochon, Dr. Thomas Calhoun and Dr. Glenda Carter. And then it was two, with Drs. Larkin and Rochon competing for the post.
“I like the process, and I really like that the board made it so open,” said Cathy Cartwright, president of the Dallas Chapter of the Grambling University National Alumni Association.
“I don’t feel like anything is going on behind closed doors. I like how it’s right on campus, and I feel so engaged.”
The ULS board members publicly interviewed the five candidates. Voting members of the Grambling Presidential Search Committee included UL System board members Edward Crawford III of Shreveport, Kelly Faircloth of Pineville, David Guidry of Natalbany, board chair E. Gerald “T-Boy” Hebert of Kenner, student board members Adam Lefort of Nicholls State University and Maggie Brakeville of Louisiana Tech University, Jimmy Long Sr. of Natchitoches, board vice chair Jimmie “Beau” Martin Jr. of Cut Off, Shawn Murphy of Jonesboro, Mark Romero of Lafayette and Winfred Sibille of Sunset.
Also serving as a voting member was GSU Faculty Senate President Herbert Simmons.
“We have no issues or complaints about the process,” said Simmons. “In fact, faculty felt it was very open and transparent. We got the chance to see each candidate up front.”
The interview process lasted three days, and on June 4 the two finalists were named. They were both interviewed again, and then the board went into executive session to choose GSU’s new leader.
Dr. Larkin has had experience with various universities and is also a Historically Black Colleges and Universities graduate, having received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tuskegee University in Alabama. He received his Ph.D. from the Ohio State University.
“I think the process was done very diligently and each candidate was looked at extensively,” said Student Government Association President Jonathan Wallace. “The time frame allowed us to look into each candidate and find out their strengths and weaknesses.
“I feel like the search committee did a great job picking the final two,” Wallace said.
In 1987 Larkin began his career in the education field while working at the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service where he was a county extension agent. He has also worked at Auburn University, Ohio State and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, just to name a few.
Larkin explained his first task will be to put together an executive team and to begin developing an agenda “to turn this university around” and return it to greatness “in every respect.”
“We are hopeful,” said Simmons. “We have challenges, real serious issues to deal with. We have to hit the ground running. We’re dealing with enrollment, as well as state funding, so now it’s time to hit the ground running and hit some home runs.”