The UA Board of Trustees voted unanimously to elevate interim chancellor Charles Robinson to a three-year term in the full-time position Wednesday morning. He will become the seventh UA chancellor, officially replacing Joseph Steinmetz, who resigned in June 2021.
College of Engineering Dean and chancellor search committee chair Kim Needy issued a statement Wednesday expressing her satisfaction with the board’s decision.
“I am thrilled to learn that the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to appoint Dr. Charles Robinson as our next chancellor,” Needy said. “The College of Engineering will do all we can to ensure his success and thereby the success of this great University. I predict a bright future for us all.”
Board chair Cliff Gibson announced last week that the group would hold a public vote to decide between the final candidates in the chancellor search Friday morning at the Janelle Y. Hembree Alumni House.
The board was previously split in opinion between Robinson and University of Utah professor Dan Reed, according to emails accessed through a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Traveler.
Robinson has earned the right to be considered as chancellor through old-fashioned hard work, honesty and integrity, Gibson said.
“By appointing Charles Robinson as the next chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, this board has seized the opportunity to select a very accomplished man who happens to be Black and tell the country and the whole world that the Arkansas of today is not the Arkansas of 1957 and Central High,” Gibson said.
Both Robinson and Reed garnered support from public figures across Arkansas. The board’s unanimous decision came six days after the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published an op-ed written by Walmart-heir Steuart Walton in which he supported UA System President Don Bobbitt’s endorsement of Reed to the board.
“Dr. Robinson has proven to be a very good steward of the university and its Land-grant mission during his time as interim Chancellor,” Bobbitt said in a statement issued through a UA System news release Wednesday. “He now has the opportunity to cast a broader vision for advancing the university as a leading public research university in the region and raising its status on the national stage. He has a unique ability to inspire others and to relate to the many different constituencies across the university, and I look forward to working with him to help make his tenure as Chancellor a success.”
Robinson’s endorsements came in the form of over 20 letters of recommendation sent to the board from individuals and organizations such as Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives Matthew Shepherd, widow of J.B. Hunt and Northwest Arkansas businesswoman Johnelle Hunt and Dillard’s CEO Bill Dillard, according to the FOIA request.
President Lauren Loften said in an email that the Associated Student Government is excited to continue working with Robinson.
“We are thankful for his leadership and work on student issues,” Loften said. “We are looking forward to further collaborating with him and addressing challenges facing UARK students.”
Robinson will be the first Black chancellor at the UofA since its founding in 1871. Before becoming interim chancellor in August 2021, he worked with the university for more than 20 years in various roles including director of the African and African American studies program, vice provost for diversity, executive vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, and vice chancellor and provost for student affairs.
As chancellor, Robinson will oversee all operations at the UofA including academics and research. He will manage UA students, faculty and staff in their academic and research enterprises, help lead and grow Razorback Athletics and be in charge of fundraising initiatives.
"I'm looking forward to serving our campus in its entirety and greatly appreciate the support and confidence shown in me to lead the university and advance our land-grant mission," Robinson said in a statement Wednesday.