Thomas E.H. Conway Jr. announced Tuesday he will step down as Elizabeth City State University chancellor at the end of May following a 45-year career with the University of North Carolina system capped off by his two-year tenure at ECSU.
Conway, who took over as ECSU chancellor on Jan. 1, 2016 and was formally installed in March of last year, announced his retirement in a letter to UNC President Margaret Spellings.
“I began my tenure at ECSU with a commitment to sharing with key stakeholders the reality of the critical value added by the institution to Northeastern North Carolina and the benefits of investing in ECSU as part of the core economic engine of the region,” Conway said in the letter. “I have actively sought to advance understanding of the reality that the benefits of the work we would do now at Elizabeth City State University will be enjoyed by generations that follow us. I believed that when I started and I believe that now.”
Conway, ECSU’s 11th chief executive officer and sixth chancellor, told Spellings he has devoted much of the past two years to restructuring ECSU policies and departments.
“A good bit of my work at ECSU could be characterized as getting the table cleared of concerns raised through both internal audits and external reviews,” he said.
Conway was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
Spellings informed members of the UNC Board of Governors of Conway’s impending retirement by letter on Tuesday.
“He has been a steadfast and humble leader over the past two years during a time of transition at ECSU,” Spellings said of Conway in the letter. “We appreciate and recognize Dr. Conway’s dedication to the mission of ECSU, allegiance to the community, and most importantly, his devotion to the students as Chancellor of ECSU.”
Spellings’ letter acknowledges Conway’s leadership in this year’s enrollment turnaround and his preparation for the upcoming implementation of the N.C. Promise tuition discount program.
“Dr. Conway has also been overseeing the marketing and implementation of NC Promise to prospective students, and as a result we are hoping for a strong enrollment in the fall of 2018, building on the momentum of this past fall,” Spellings’ letter states. “During his tenure, Dr. Conway has managed the institution through a lengthy and complicated internal audit and external review process, which resulted in ECSU being removed from warning status by (the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges) in December 2017.”
Spellings also announced Tuesday that Karrie Dixon, who currently serves as the vice president for academic and student affairs for the UNC System who and has worked with Conway in leading the phase 2 Working Group, will become interim chancellor at ECSU beginning June 1.
“Dr. Dixon brings to ECSU more than 20 years of experience in higher education, leading efforts to increase student access, retention, and graduation rates, while fostering innovative collaborations among the UNC System, the N.C. Community College System, the state’s independent colleges and universities, and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction,” Spellings said in the letter. “Dr. Dixon also brings a wealth of experience on efforts to increase and facilitate community college transfers, minimum admission requirements, campus safety and security and military student success.”
ECSU Board of Trustees Chairman Kim Brown said Tuesday that while he absolutely is disappointed that Conway is retiring, he believes that the chancellor has helped get the university on the right path and that Dixon as interim chancellor will be able to keep ECSU headed in the right direction.
“I think he’s been very vital in re-stabilizing the university,” Brown said of Conway’s two-year tenure as chancellor. “I think he feels like he has done that and has the institution moving in a direction that’s positive.”
Conway’s steady demeanor and professionalism have been good for ECSU, according to Brown.
“I think what he has brought to the university is he is a real calm guy,” Brown said. “He is an administrator that does not get shaken. He has got a real peaceful spirit. He has got a real calming spirit.”
Dixon has worked closely with Conway and will be a good person to maintain the momentum that the university has, Brown said.
“I think she has done a good job,” Brown said of Dixon. “I think we’re blessed as a university that we don’t have to panic. We have got leadership there that has already been part of the team.”
According to ECSU, Conway’s tenure has been highlighted by approval for five new academic programs and establishment of bilateral agreements with community colleges in the state. ECSU also this fall saw its first enrollment increase in seven years and its largest freshman class in five years.
Conway also has overseen investments at ECSU totaling more than $24 million.
Conway is retiring with 45 years of service in the UNC system, including 32 in various capacities at N.C. State University in various capacities. Before coming to ECSU Conway was vice chancellor and chief of staff at Fayetteville State University.
Conway holds a bachelor of science degree in agricultural education and a master of science degree in guidance and counseling from N.C. A & T State University, and a Ph.D. in counselor education from N.C. State University.