Sias named Kentucky State president

UTD Senior Vice President for Student Affairs and External Relations Mary Evans Sias has been named president of Kentucky State University, leaving the UTD administration with its second major vacancy to fill in less than six months.

Sias, who joined UTD in 1995 as an associate provost and associate professor in the School of General Studies, was named to head the traditionally-black Frankfort, Ky.-based university on Feb. 11. KSU, with an enrollment of 2,300, has been without a president since July 2002.

“This is a big loss to us but a tremendous gain to Kentucky State,” said B. Hobson Wildenthal, executive vice president of academic affairs and provost. “She was born for that job.”

Former KSU President George Reid’s contract expired June 30, 2002, and was not renewed due to low testing scores on minimum-competency tests for teacher certification and allegations that personal expenses had been charged to the university, according to the Associated Press.

Reid subsequently sued KSU for $3 million, but dropped the suit after receiving $180,000 in severance pay.

Sias will replace Interim President William Turner and begin her presidency later this spring. The move comes less than six months after the October 2003 resignation announcement by UTD President Franklyn Jenifer.

“I will have the opportunity to grow a school, grow enrollment, work with improving the library and strengthen their liberal arts program,” Sias said.

Other candidates for the position were Toy Caldwell-Colbert, a senior research associate of the American Council on Education; Dorsey Kendrick, president of Gateway Community College in New Haven, CT and Turner.

“When Dr. Sias interviewed at Kentucky State, the (KSU) students were very supportive of her out of the four candidates,” said Richard Huckaba, UTD assistant vice president for student affairs and external relations. “They recognize the leader she is.”

Fiscal management, fund management, enrollment skills and the “ability to bring stake holders to help advance the institution” are some of the strengths Sias said she hopes to bring to KSU.

“She will bring to Kentucky State an understanding of what good teaching is, what good research is and how you move a university from one status to another,” said UTD President Franklyn Jenifer. “She’s a champion of student issues and student rights on campus and she articulated those in a forceful manner on the (president’s) cabinet,” he added.

Sias’ primary responsibilities at UTD included enrollment, recruitment, admissions, registration, financial aid and student-related services. While UTD administrators say the plans to find a replacement have not yet been formulated, Sias’ act, they say, will be a tough one to follow.

“She’s got all the talents needed to be a great university president,” Wildenthal said. “She will move into the kind of leadership position she was made for, and her talents will be utilized 100 percent.”

Sias has been an active member in the Richardson area serving as president for the Girl Scouts of Tejas Council and vice chair of the board of directors of the Richardson Regional Medical Center.

She also sits on the boards of the Salvation Army, the King Foundation and the City of Richardson’s Civil Service Board and is director of Oaks Bank and Trust Co. Prior to coming to UTD, Sias served as chief executive officer of the YWCA of Metropolitan Dallas for 13 years.

“Her loss will be extraordinarily significant to the university,” Jenifer said. “I wish her the very best as she moves ahead.”

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