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18 April 2008

Meehan a Semi-finalist for Valdosta State Job

JSU President Dr. William Meehan confirmed that he is a semi-finalist for the top job at Valdosta State University. File Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star

By Dan Whisenhunt
Star Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Jacksonville State University President Bill Meehan is being considered for the top job at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga.

He will interview there at the end of the month.

If Valdosta State offers Meehan the job, it will be the end of a lengthy career at JSU. He started as a biology instructor there in the 1970s. It's also where he received his undergraduate and master's degrees.

Meehan said a search firm hired by the school approached him about the job in March. He had an initial interview Sunday in Atlanta.

Meehan told JSU trustees about the job during a closed session of Monday's board meeting.

Though Meehan has turned down other offers since he became president, he said he's considering this one because he has accomplished what he set out to do as president.

Meehan also is raising a young family twin 13-year-old boys, and a nine-year-old daughter. If selected for the new job, he could draw both a salary from Valdosta State and a retirement check from JSU.

"I know by 2010 we'll make our 10,000 goal for students," Meehan said Thursday, noting an enrollment goal he outlined when took the job in 1999. JSU also has more accredited programs than any regional university in Alabama, Meehan said.

Valdosta State has around 11,200 students and is near the Florida-Georgia border. It has 56 undergraduate programs and 45 graduate programs, including three doctoral degrees. Several of its programs are nationally accredited.

The school has a budget of more than $100 million and employs 1,500 people.

Cindy Tori, chair of Valdosta State's Presidential Search and Screen Committee, said the school began its search in January after the current president announced his retirement in November. She would not answer questions Thursday about what the university wants from its new leader.

A job posting on the school's Web site emphasizes experience, but shows signs the university wants to grow.

Valdosta State wants "a demonstrated commitment to progressive vision and implementation of change, including future growth in terms of population, finance, research, technology, facilities and scholarship."

Valdosta State also wants someone who is committed to raising money for the school.

Under Meehan, enrollment at Jacksonville State increased in the school's distance-learning programs. The school now has 2,901 "distance only" students, according to Meehan's resume.

JSU's enrollment overall has grown 12.8 percent, from 8,048 total students in 1999 to 9,077 in 2007. The school also has completed a series of building and renovation projects, and is in the midst of a $25 million fundraising effort.

Meehan will compete with five other semi-finalists. Asked if plagiarism allegations last August might hurt his chances, Meehan said he thought they wouldn't if evaluators studied the case closely. He said he was not directly responsible for the plagiarism.

In that case, material published under Meehan's byline in two weekly newspapers owned by The Star's parent company included material lifted from third-party Web sites, without credit.

The university said retired JSU spokesman Al Harris regularly wrote the columns, which were credited in the newspapers to Meehan. Harris no longer works for the university. The columns still are published under Meehan's name, with other contributors often credited.

Trustees contacted Thursday said they would hate to lose Meehan, but that they understand where he's coming from.

"He has been a clear and consistent voice for the university both as president and as a faculty member for the past 21 years," Board Chairman Jim Bennett said. "We understand that he is fully vested in the Alabama retirement system, and a similar position in Georgia would greatly enhance his income potential."

Board member Ronnie Smith said he would "certainly be disappointed if we lost him." He praised Meehan's contributions to the community.

"All I know is I don't want him to go and I'm prejudiced because I love Dr. Bill and his family; but I also want to do what's best for him," board member Jamie Etheredge said.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt covers K-12 schools and higher education for The Star.

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