The University of South Alabama named just the third president in its 50-year history Feb 6 in Dr. Tony Waldrop, previously the provost and executive vice president at the University of Central Florida. Waldrop accepted the position alongside his wife Julie after a meeting of the university’s trustees.
Waldrop enrolled in 1970 at the University of North Carolina as a scholar and track athlete. After earning his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at North Carolina, he continued his training at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas in 1982 as a research fellow in the cardiopulmonary division, receiving a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship at the Moss Heart Center.
In 1986, he joined the faculty in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Illinois, advancing in progressively greater areas of responsibility and earning the school’s Arnold O. Beckman Research Award, and recognition as a university scholar and an American Heart Association Established Investigator.
Waldrop returned to his alma mater in 2001 as the University of North Carolina’s vice chancellor for research and economic development and as a professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology. Nine years later, he was named provost and executive vice president at Central Florida.
At Central Florida, one of the largest universities in the country, he was the second-highest ranking officer of the university and provided academic leadership for the university’s 12 colleges, multiple campuses and research centers and institutes, while overseeing academic support services and student services, and responsibility for curriculum, academic planning, faculty appointments, faculty development and promotion, and tenure decisions.
Waldrop was the fourth candidate brought to the university for an interview during a six-month nationwide search process that narrowed an original field of more than 100 candidates. He succeeds the university’s founding president, Dr. Frederick Whiddon and Gordon Moulton, who resigned last year amid health issues and died weeks later.
“It’s a humbling honor to come and follow in the footsteps of two great presidents,” he said, suggesting as it goes forward, the university could benefit from more community involvement, a more affordable cost of enrollment and greater competition with larger state schools.
“I want the University of South Alabama to be somewhere students choose to go over those two larger universities,” he said.
Steve Furr, president of the university’s Board of Trustees, said Waldrop was a natural choice.
“The things we were looking for was experience with research, also that they had some experience with the medical side and of course his PhD is in physiology and all of his appointments have been in the college of medicine. So he met all the criteria we were looking for and has also been at outstanding universities that are bigger than us so we felt like he has the expertise to take us to the next level,” Furr said.
Julie Waldrop holds a doctorate degree as a nurse practitioner and has 17 years teaching experience in higher education.
Dr. Doug Marshall, a faculty representative on the presidential search committee, said “everyone was excited” about extending the offer to Waldrop.
“He’s a great fit, we appreciate his academic accomplishments and his proven ability as a leader,” he said. “I think we can really bring the faculty in behind the president.”
Marshall also praised the search process, which seemed to falter after the board rejected two finalists and a third withdrew himself from consideration. Waldrop was among a group of initial candidates invited to the university by the search committee last year but he had to cancel after a death in the family. His first day will be April 1.