PINEVILLE, La. — Trustees of Louisiana College have elected Rick Brewer as the college’s 9th president. They announced their unanimous decision during a special called meeting March 5.
Brewer will begin his duties April 7. He is a New Orleans native, and his father attended seminary there. He grew up mostly in North Carolina, and for the past 28 years has called Charleston Southern University in North Charleston, S.C., home.
“We believe this is an answer to prayer,” Brewer said during a press conference following the board meeting. “We believe God has been in this from the very beginning.
“In fact, He was working here before we knew it,” he continued. “He was working in our life before [trustees] knew it. He brought it all together.
“I want to challenge the faculty, staff, students, alums, and other persons or constituent groups in the state that love Louisiana College to leave the past in the rear view mirror and get on board with what I believe will become the finest days Louisiana College has ever seen.”
When Brewer arrives on the Pineville campus, he will bring years of extensive senior-level administrative experience from Charleston Southern, where he served in various capacities, including most recently as vice-president for student affairs and athletics.
While at the South Carolina Baptist Convention-affiliated school, Brewer helped double enrollment from 1,600 to more than 3,400 students, increased unrestricted giving and endowment support and improved freshman-to-sophomore retention from 50 to 78 percent.
Under his leadership, the integration of planning, budgeting and assessment with broad-based campus participation led to additional academic programs and facilities, such as an athletic facility, state-of-the-art science building and an expansion of a building for the School of Nursing.
Brewer also brings extensive experience as an evaluator for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the NCAA. He plans to use that experience with SACS-COC to help Louisiana College move off of probation status. Placed on probation in 2014, the probationary status in no way affects the current accreditation of Louisiana College.
“Let’s move through this and let’s have probation removed and be fully accredited,” Brewer said. “The school deserves it. The wonderful people here, the faculty and the reputation of the school all deserve it. We’re going to do all we can to make this work and we’ll do everything they ask us to do to be successful at the end of the day.”
Brewer said he is looking forward to seeing students’ lives transformed. He said he will maintain an open-door policy with them.
While at Charleston Southern, Brewer said he could be found eating with students in the cafeteria, spending time with them in his home or visiting with them in the stands at a football game.
“Nothing gets my heart and my blood pumping (more) to see students go through that transformational experience,” he said. “We prepare graduates but also transform lives.”
To help students reach that dream of coming to Louisiana College, Brewer said he wants to start a donor program that will help raise funds for student scholarships. While at Charleston Southern, Brewer helped garner resource development, including $50 million for student scholarships, academic programs and campus construction.
During the March 5 meeting he asked the board members to begin identifying people he could personally call and visit for possible fundraising that would include student scholarships.
“We will build a donor program that will help students because at the end of the day this is about student scholarships,” he said. “This is about enabling a student to be able to attain that education they desire. They want to be in a Christian college. They want an education that is taught through the lens of Christianity. They want a good education. In many cases it just becomes an issue of affordability.”
In his remarks, board chairman Tommy French said when the presidential search committee saw Brewer’s resume and met with him, they were convinced he was God’s choice for Louisiana College.
“To say that we were impressed is an understatement,” French said. “We were thrilled. We were overjoyed. And we were hopeful.
“And we still are those things today because our board has unanimously elected one of God’s best servants to lead Louisiana College,” he said. “I dare say we couldn’t have been led to a candidate who can speak the language of educators and preach the sermons of Baptists any better than Dr. Rick Brewer.”
Brewer earned a Bachelor of Arts and master’s in business administration from Charleston Southern and a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policies from the University of South Carolina. He also completed post-graduate study at Harvard University and Duke University.
Brewer and his wife Cathy have two grown sons, Jason and Jonathan. Brewer is an accomplished pianist and is a deacon at Summerville Baptist Church in Summerville, S.C., not far from the Charleston Southern campus.
The hiring of Brewer ends a lengthy search to fill the position, most recently held by Interim President Argile Smith.
The school began its search for a new president after the contract of Joe Aguillard as president expired on July 31, 2014, and the board approved an agreement which allowed Aguillard to remain on campus as president emeritus beginning Aug. 1, 2014.
Smith then became interim president of the college once Aguillard’s contract expired. Before being named interim president, Smith served as executive vice-president for integration of faith and learning at Louisiana College. In addition to the college’s nine presidents, two of its past leaders have served in interim roles.
During the board’s December meeting, the search committee announced they had narrowed the pool of candidates to three from a pool of around 40.