Bluefield State College has named two finalists to be the school’s next president. One is current interim President Robin Capehart.
The Rev. Garry Moore, chairman of the college’s Board of Governors, said only two of the more than 20 applicants met the criteria. He said the biggest criterion that eliminated applicants was the college’s requirement for past presidential experience.
The finalist other than Capehart is Patricia Ramsey. Her resume, posted on Bluefield State’s website, says she was only an interim president for one summer 13 years ago at Maryland’s Bowie State University.
Her resume lists her as the current provost and vice president of academic affairs for Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University.
Lincoln University’s website says Ramsey is on leave. Shelley Mix, Lincoln University’s communications director, said Ramsey “is pursuing a research project” but didn’t have further details Wednesday afternoon.
Moore said he wasn’t aware that she was on leave.
Bluefield State, Bowie State and Lincoln are all historically black colleges and universities.
Capehart became West Liberty University’s president in 2007. He left the presidency there in 2015, before he was scheduled to go in front of the state Ethics Commission to face 13 ethics charges.
He admitted to one of the charges in a conciliation agreement with the Ethics Commission. In exchange, the other 12 were dropped.
The charges against Capehart related to his use of public resources at the school for his privately owned movie production company.
He agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and another $5,000 to reimburse the commission for the cost of the investigation.
He’s now under a one-year, roughly $190,000 contract with Bluefield State. That $190,000 doesn’t include the value of getting to live in the president’s home for free.
Moore said there’s no salary range for the new president.
The college began advertising the position the week of May 20 and stopped accepting applications July 14, according to its website.
Moore declined to provide the other applicants’ resumes. He said he wouldn’t because none of the others met the finalist criteria.
“They are for the institution’s use and not necessarily for the public use,” Moore said of the other resumes.
He said he’ll only go to the other applicants, “if no one agrees with the two we’ve selected.”
“In the history of Bluefield State College and at this particular time in the development of Bluefield State College we felt it necessary,” said Moore, that the next president “have some kind of presidential experience to make sure that the school would continue to not just survive, but thrive.”
Bluefield State’s for-credit headcount enrollment, excluding high schoolers taking dual-enrollment courses, dropped 21 percent over roughly the last five years, including 8 percent between 2017 and 2018 to hit 1,212. Moore said he doesn’t know yet how enrollment has changed for this year.
Board of Governors Vice Chairman Charlie Cole heads the presidential search committee, which includes all the board members plus some non-members.
“Why would we want someone who has less qualifications than the interim person?” Cole said of the requirement for past presidential or chief executive officer experience.
Regarding Ramsey only barely meeting that criterion, Cole said “we’re wanting to be above board, we wanted to be transparent, we didn’t say how much presidential experience.”
“The interim president, Capehart, has made significant strides in putting the college on firm footing. If we didn’t have somebody like that I might have been more disappointed,” Cole said of the search process. “But we have a very viable candidate that the Board of Governors has eight months’ experience with at this point. Now, that doesn’t mean he’s the best, but we do know that he’s tackled some of the things that we’ve asked him to do, so we’re going to keep an open mind.”
Cole also said “we want someone who has run a college before, we want somebody who knows their way around Charleston, or knows their way around the legislature of other states they might have been in.”
Between his time at West Liberty and at Bluefield State, Capehart served as counsel for the Republican-controlled Senate Finance Committee.
Cole’s brother, Bill, a fellow board member, is the former state Senate president and Republican gubernatorial nominee who lost to now-Gov. Jim Justice, back when Justice was a Democrat. Charlie Cole said he owns several motorcycle dealerships that aren’t connected to his brother’s car dealerships.
Capehart began working for Senate Finance after Bill Cole left the Senate.
According to an estimated timeline on Bluefield State’s website, the board plans to choose the new president Sept. 26. The timeline says there will be an October decision from the state Higher Education Policy Commission’s board — which, for most four-year schools, gets the final vote on presidents’ pay.
The new president should start Jan. 1.
“I am convinced,” Ramsey’s application said, “that my more than twenty-five accomplished years in higher education where I have served as interim president, chief academic officer, deputy fundraising officer, academic department chair and professor, coupled with my vast community experience, impeccable integrity, strong interpersonal skills, deep commitment to excellence, and my passion for making a difference, provide me with the substratum and the resolve to continue the momentum that is already underway at BSC.”
Ramsey is scheduled to visit the campus on Sept. 4. Capehart’s public audition will be Sept. 6.
The schedules on those days will be the same for both.
The first open-to-the-public meeting will be 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at Hatter Hall.
There will then be more public meetings from 1:45 p.m. through 5 p.m., mostly in the Tierney Conference Room of Dickason Hall.