Dr. Cecil P. Staton, interim president of Valdosta State University in Georgia and vice chancellor for extended education for the University System of Georgia, has been elected chancellor of East Carolina University by the Board of Governors of the 17-campus University of North Carolina. UNC President Margaret Spellings placed Staton’s name in nomination today (April 27) during a special called meeting of the board. Staton, 58, will assume his new duties July 1, succeeding Steve Ballard, who has led ECU since 2004.
In recommending Staton to the Board of Governors, Spellings said: “Dr. Cecil Staton brings to ECU a rare blend of leadership experience in higher education, the private sector and elected public office, as well as a practical understanding of how to bring diverse constituencies and organizations together to get things done. During a varied 30-year career, he has proven himself to be an energetic and effective leader who encourages strategic thinking, promotes collaboration and inclusiveness, and understands the power of education to change lives, families, and communities. I am thrilled that he has agreed to join our leadership team.”
Staton has served since 2014 as vice chancellor for extended education for the University System of Georgia (USG), comprised of 29 public colleges and universities that collectively enroll more than 318,000 students. In that role, he is responsible for strategic initiatives related to international education, continuing and professional education, entrepreneurial education, and military affairs. He is also USG’s liaison with the Georgia Research Alliance and supports USG’s economic development initiatives and efforts to match the resources of USG institutions with Georgia’s evolving workforce needs.
Since July 2015, Staton has also served as interim president of Valdosta State University (VSU), a regional comprehensive USG institution with 11,300 students. As interim president, he has focused on retention, improving student success, and better marketing and branding to reverse recent enrollment declines and associated budget shortfalls. He has also worked to expand VSU’s e-learning offerings and competency-based education plan. As a result of these efforts, the university’s operating budget has been aligned with current enrollment; applications for fall 2016 are up 60 percent over the previous year; and a capital campaign has raised more than $46 million over the past 18 months.
Born and raised in Greenville, SC, Staton holds a bachelor’s degree in religion from Furman University, as well as master of divinity and theology degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He later earned a doctorate in Old Testament, Hebrew, and ancient Near Eastern studies from the University of Oxford in England.
Staton began his academic career at Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, GA, where he was an assistant professor of religion from 1989-91. He then spent the next 12 years at Mercer University in Macon, GA—a multi-campus comprehensive institution with key professional programs including medicine, law, business, education, pharmacy, engineering, and nursing—where he was an associate professor, associate provost, and university publisher. In addition to teaching in the College of Liberal Arts and serving as a university administrator, he led Mercer’s University Press and secured more than $4.5 million to help endow the academic publishing program.
Staton’s extensive private-sector experience has included founding and leading three communications companies: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc. (1990-2013), a publisher of books and curriculum products; Stroud and Hall Publishers, Inc. (2004-13), a publisher of books on politics and current events; and Georgia Eagle Media, Inc. (2001-13), a holding company for broadcasting, newspaper, and media properties.
In 2004, Staton was elected to the first of five terms in the Georgia State Senate, representing the 18th District. During his ten-year tenure in the legislature, he served as vice chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus, Majority Whip, and as a member of the Appropriations, Finance, Banking and Financial Institutions, Higher Education, Regulated Industries, and Reapportionment and Redistricting committees. For two terms, he chaired the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education, responsible for the state’s $2-billion annual investment in higher education. He also served as vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Community Health, championing efforts to enlarge Georgia’s healthcare workforce. Following his retirement from the Senate in 2014, he accepted his current post with the University System of Georgia.
Active in professional and civic organizations, Staton has been recognized numerous times for his service and leadership. His awards and honors include the Georgia Independent College Association’s 2014 Miller-Deal Award for significant public service in higher education; Legislator of the Year awards from the Georgia Hospital Association, Georgia Technology Association, and Georgia Rural Health Care Association; and the Georgia Ambulance Association Star of Life Award. He also holds an honorary doctorate from Mercer University and received the inaugural Richard B. Furman Award from Furman University. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the board of visitors of the University of Georgia.
Staton and his wife, Catherine, have two children: Cecil P. “Trey” Staton III, a financial planner in Atlanta; and William Davidson Staton, a student at DePaul University in Chicago.