The chancellor at Elizabeth City State University, Stacey Franklin Jones, resigned abruptly Monday after only about a year on the job.
There was no explanation for the resignation, which takes effect Dec. 31. Jones was only officially installed Sept. 11, though she had been on the job since October of last year.
A news release from the UNC system’s General Administration said Thomas Conway, an administrator at Fayetteville State University with decades of experience at N.C. State University, will step in as interim chancellor on Jan. 1. In an unusual move, the UNC Board of Governors is expected to elect Conway as the permanent successor to Jones in January.
East Carolina University will assist the struggling ECSU “to build greater capacity throughout ECSU’s student support and operational units,” said the UNC system news release.
ECSU is a historically black university that serves economically disadvantaged northeastern North Carolina and has been in a steep slide the past few years. Enrollment has declined by more than half in five years, to less than 1,900 full- and part-time students, leading to a loss of nearly $10 million in state funding and tuition proceeds.
In the recent past, some lawmakers had talked about closing ECSU or merging it with another campus, but opposition was strong and the discussion subsided. More recently, legislators have rallied to help save ECSU, appropriating $3 million in stabilization funds this year.
Jones came to ECSU with an impressive resume from higher education and the private sector. A mathematician who had careers in software and consulting, she had held academic leadership posts at two historically black colleges – Benedict College in South Carolina and Bowie State University in Maryland.
When she was named chancellor last year, she said she saw more opportunity than challenges at ECSU. “Together we are embarking on something just shy of phenomenal,” Jones said at the time.
In a statement Monday, UNC Board Chairman W. Louis Bissette said the board was committed to a sustainable university in Elizabeth City.
“ECSU is an important and essential institution to the University of North Carolina system,” the statement said. “I believe Dr. Conway will provide the experienced, stable and innovative leadership ECSU needs and am confident the Board of Governors will fully support his selection as the permanent chancellor. The board is committed to working with Dr. Conway, the ECSU leadership team, and our system partners as we work with the ECSU community, as well as with business and legislative leaders, to ensure the future success of Elizabeth City State University.”
Conway is vice chancellor and chief of staff at Fayetteville State. Previously he was dean of undergraduate academic programs at N.C. State, where he held various roles for 32 years. He holds undergraduate and master’s degrees from N.C. A&T State University and a doctorate in counselor education from NCSU.