2017-12-06 / Front Page

Limestone College names its 22nd president

By SCOTT POWELL

Ledger Staff Writer

spowell@gaffneyledger.com


Limestone College will ring in the new year with its first new president in a quarter century.

After an extensive seven month national search, Dr. Darrell Parker was introduced as the next college president Wednesday afternoon. He will officially take office as Limestone’s 22nd president on January 3, 2018. He replaces Dr. Walt Griffin, who is retiring at the end of this month after leading Limestone since 1992.

Parker comes from Western Carolina University where he has been the College of Business Dean and economics president since 2012. Western Carolina is a regional public university with approximately 11,000 students in Cullowhee, N.C.

A native of Buncombe County, Parker grew up in Weaverville, N.C., and graduated from North Buncombe High School. He received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics at the University of North Carolina Asheville before earning his master’s and doctorate degrees in economics from Purdue University.

Parker has local ties to Gaffney and the Upstate area. He previously served for six years as the dean and economics professor for the Johnson College of Business and Economics at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg.  From 1990 until 2001, he served as director of the Winthrop Economic Development Center, which he founded.

Limestone College is one of the largest private institutions in the state with more than 3,300 students.

In addition to its traditional day program campus in Gaffney, Limestone has an Extended Campus program that includes online courses and evening classes at six sites across South Carolina, including Aiken, Charleston, Columbia, Florence, Gaffney, and Greenville.

“My wife Kathy and I are thrilled to be here. Limestone is a college that I am familiar with and welcome the opportunity to lead,” Parker said. “This is a homecoming in a sense. My wife grew up in Hickory Grove. My wife’s sister, Jo, worked most of her adult life as a beautician in one of the huts near the Little Moo in Gaffney.”

Along with the family connection, Parker said he sees many opportunities for future growth to build on the strong foundation established at Limestone under Griffin over the past 25 years. He cited online education programs, college partnerships, and the recent strategic decision by trustees to apply for a multi-million dollar loan to fast track construction for a library and student center building.

“The history of Limestone demonstrates values like access, student success, engagement and community development. That mission creates a distinctive identity that can unite the college, inspire students and engage the state and region,” Parker said. “I plan to start preparing for January immediately. I have a short window where I will try to gather as much information to find out where we are going and the opportunities for future growth. I’m looking forward to coming to Limestone.”

The search for Limestone’s new president started in April with the formation of a 13-member presidential search committee led by Board of Trustees Vice Chairman David Riggins. The committee conducted a comprehensive national search for the successor to Griffin.

An initial list of 92 candidates was narrowed down to three finalists who recently visited with Limestone College constituents on campus. Parker visited the Limestone campus on Nov. 28-29.

The full Board of Trustees selected the new president during a called meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5. The official announcement was made Wednesday at 3 p.m. in order to allow adequate time for Parker and his wife to travel from their home near Western Carolina for the news conference, according to Riggins.

“From the beginning, we were confident we would find a motivated, enthusiastic leader to build upon Limestone’s legacy,” Riggins said. “We were seeking a president who could build upon Dr. Griffin’s achievements and lead us to an even brighter future. We firmly believe we have found that person in Dr. Darrell Parker.”

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