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La. College names Aguillard as new president in 17-13 vote

PINEVILLE, La. (BP)–Louisiana College’s board of trustees voted 17-13 to name Joe Aguillard as the college’s new president around 2 a.m. Jan. 18 as a crowd of students and faculty members awaited the decision.

Aguillard will succeed Rory Lee, who announced his resignation March 15, 2004, to become executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Children’s Village, the children’s home affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention. In September, trustees elected Malcolm Yarnell as president, but Yarnell decided to return to his position at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.

Aguillard holds a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana College; his parents met there; he met his wife there; and all three of his children have attended the college.

“I have utmost confidence in Dr. Aguillard and his ability to lead Louisiana College to its greatest days,” board chairman Tim Johnson said in a Jan. 18 news release. “Not only does Dr. Aguillard have the head for education, but his heart is definitely intertwined with Louisiana College.”

Aguillard, 47, joined the faculty of the Pineville college in 2000 and has served as chair of the division of education, coordinator of the department of teacher education and associate professor of education. He agreed to a $125,000 salary and a five-year contract as president and will assume the position immediately.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools decided in December to place Louisiana College on probation for one year after finding that the school was not in compliance in matters of governance and academic freedom. The accrediting agency has given the school 12 months to meet standards for compliance, and Louisiana College officials have said they would strive in the coming year to maintain accreditation.

“Dr. Aguillard is a top-notch educator who is theologically sound,” Johnson said. “He has the ability to help us effectively address the SACS situation and lead us to satisfying all of their requests. We as a board prayerfully support Dr. Aguillard, the faculty, staff and students of Louisiana College.”

Two weeks ago, the faculty voted 53-12 by secret ballot to oppose Aguillard’s appointment, according to The Town Talk in Alexandria. History professor Bill Simpson told the newspaper the faculty distrusts Aguillard and are wary of what they characterize as his limited experience in higher education. Prior to joining Louisiana College’s faculty, Aguillard was the superintendent of schools in Beauregard Parish.

The student body at the college named Aguillard the 2004 Professor of the Year.

“I think he is a wonderful man of God,” senior Laurie Lopez told The Town Talk, adding that she thinks he was portrayed unfairly during the selection process. “I think he’ll be really good at bringing the campus together and opening lines of communication.”

On Jan. 13, a group of Louisiana College alumni and former faculty members filed a lawsuit against the board of trustees, claiming Aguillard’s nomination was illegal because it did not come from the original search committee. Yarnell was that committee’s first choice, and when he turned down the job, it offered another choice, Stan Norman of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Other trustees rejected that selection, and a new committee was appointed. The new committee, which was affirmed by the trustees 19-8, nominated Aguillard.

Aguillard earned an Ed.D. from Nova Southeastern University and two master’s degrees from McNeese State University.

Louisiana College has 1,100 students and is affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

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