Shared from the 1/8/2017 American Press eEdition



McNeese State University President Philip Williams announced last week that he will retire June 30, ending a seven-year run at the helm.

It’s a big loss for the university as it has continued to thrive despite continued yearly cuts in funding. During his tenure, he has kept his focus on student development and improving their overall experience.

Williams, 64, released a prepared statement saying he is leaving McNeese to focus on writing, along with “consulting in the fields of strategic planning and management.”

Williams is McNeese’s sixth president and has served in that capacity since 2010. He undoubtedly had big shoes to fill upon his arrival, replacing the late Robert Hebert, who retired in 2010 after 23 years of service. Hebert died last May.

Early in his tenure, the university experienced tragedy when 19-year-old freshman Ashlea Richard died in October 2010 after being hit by a car while crossing McNeese Street. The university responded by pushing for a parking garage, with the students voting to pay a fee to help pay for its construction.

The three-level parking garage, which opened in May 2013, added roughly 800-900 more spaces. Also, the speed limits on Common Street and Sale Road were reduced in order to make it safer for students crossing the street. Timed crosswalks were also added to improve pedestrian safety.

Williams’ efforts to address student needs included hosting more than 30 events in 2012 to gain public input on ways to improve the university. It was part of a long-term plan he had to make McNeese better.

Some of the resulting goals were promoting innovative ways to teach, working with more regional partners and making a McNeese brand that welcomes a culture of innovation.

The university also saw its community run radio station — KBYS-FM (88.3) — go on the air in June 2014. The SEED Center facility opened its doors in August 2013. McNeese partnered with the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and city of Lake Charles on the facility, which acts as an incubator for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Work also continues on a $40.5 million basketball and eduction complex near the university’s football stadium and field house.

Higher education has seen a 55 percent reduction in state funding over the last nine years. It goes without saying that Williams’ replacement will have the same challenges in trying to maintain the programs offered at McNeese.

As for who will replace Williams, we will have to wait while the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors conducts a nationwide search.

During an interview in 2010, Williams said McNeese was appealing because of its “core values of academic excellence, student success, fiscal responsibility” and ties to the community. During his time here, Williams continued to push, and improve upon, those qualities.


This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the board, whose members are CRYSTAL STEVENSON, JOHN GUIDROZ, EMILY FONTENOT, retired editor JIM BEAM and retired staff writer MIKE JONES.

See this article in the e-Edition Here