Wesleyan College stayed within the family when it announced Vivia Fowler as its new president Thursday.
Fowler, the college’s provost, will become the school’s 25th leader when her promotion takes effect this summer.
She will replace Ruth Knox, who will retire June 30 after 15 years as president. Fowler, whom Knox hired at Wesleyan a decade ago, will take over July 1. Besides being provost, Fowler is also vice president of academic affairs and a religious studies professor.
The board of trustees, meeting at Wesleyan Thursday and Friday, approved Fowler after a nationwide search and interviews with multiple highly qualified candidates, said board and search committee chairwoman Susan Kimmey and board member Amy Fletcher.
Knox named Fowler a member of the school’s Golden Heart sisterhood class, since she arrived at Wesleyan in 2007.
“I am quite simply overjoyed that Vivia will be Wesleyan’s next president because she is perfect for the role: imminently qualified by experience and temperament, steeped in both women’s colleges and the United Methodist Church, with intelligence, warmth, creativity, the ability to get things done, boundless energy, and possessing an abiding appreciation and love for all things Wesleyan,” Knox said.
Before joining Wesleyan, Fowler, 62, was a professor and administrator for 20 years at Columbia College, also a United Methodist women’s school.
She holds a bachelor of arts in religion and sociology from Columbia College, a master’s degree in religion from the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary and a doctorate from the University of South Carolina. She’s also an ordained United Methodist minister.
Among her accomplishments at Wesleyan, Fowler was instrumental in establishing the bachelor of science in nursing program, the Confucius Institute, Academy for Lifelong Learning adult continuing education program, and American Cultural Center at partner school Guangzhou University in China, according to a statement from the school.
She also was instrumental in library renovations and partnerships with community agencies such as Navicent Health, Knox said.
“As your president, I will strive to inspire and affirm each member of this academic community as we work together for the good of the institution,” Fowler said. “I believe in what we do in every fiber of my being, and today I commit myself to you, Wesleyan. I pledge to all of you that I will honor (Knox’s) legacy and continue to lead Wesleyan into a strong future.”
Given her career background, she’s well aware of the challenges of a small college with a small faculty, Fowler said. Her first matter of business will be finding a new provost and establishing a transition team.
Enrollment is the most important issue, and she’ll work on recruiting students from around the world and helping families fund their education. The development of new academic programs and fundraising are other top priorities. Fowler also hopes to continue strengthening Wesleyan’s relationship with China and other nations.
“She is a marvelous human being and will be a wonderful representative for the community and Wesleyan College,” Kimmey said.