As of 10 a.m. on April 3, Salisbury University had their next president.
In a school wide email from the office of the president, it was announced that the University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents appointed Dr. Charles Wight as the next president of SU.
Wight will take his position as the new president this summer, coming from Weber State University having served as president since 2013.
Wight brings a resume of accomplishments from WSU, having led a $164 million fundraising campaign, creating the first LGBT Resource Center along with others.
“On behalf of the Board of Regents, I’m delighted that Charles Wight is bringing his breadth of experience to lead Salisbury University as its next president,” USM Board of Regents Chair James Brady said in an SU press release. “We look forward to having Dr. Wight become a part of the USM family.”
Wight will bring similar success of campus growth to what Dudley-Eshbach has pushed through her tenure at SU. During his five years at WSU, student enrollment grew by more than 5 percent. Wight also brought in significant funds for the construction and renovation of eight campus buildings.
WSU also continued to take part in conservation efforts, much like the Green Fund at SU, that have emphasized saving on fuel, power and water.
“I am both honored and delighted by the opportunity to serve as president of Salisbury University,” Wight said. “It’s a great institution, and I’m looking forward to joining the team in July.”
Before WSU, Wight had spent 13 years in various administrative positions at the University of Utah, culminating as the dean of the Graduate School.
Wight has ties to Maryland, having grown up in Virginia with family currently living on the western shore.
“This move brings me closer to both family and home,” Wight said. “But the thing that sealed the deal is the fact that SU students and graduates are so highly successful.”
One of the many suggestions that students brought up in meetings with the search committee was the desire for the future president to have more of a campus presence.
Wight spent his years at the helm of WSU simultaneously teaching undergraduate courses in chemistry. Similarly to Dudley-Eshbach, who gave her desire to return to the classroom as one of her reasons for departure, Wight expressed his love of teaching that got him involved in higher education.
Wight will enter SU in a large transition point for the first time in more than 18 years, but hopes that his leadership style will quickly help the university make the switch.
“I try to lead by setting direction at a high level and empowering people to implement their own strategies,” Wight said. “My definition of staff excellence is when someone brings me the solution to a problem I didn’t know I had yet.”
After Dudley-Eshbach had announced her exit last semester giving way to a search committee being announced with the hope of announcing the future president by semester’s end. This announcement comes with just under two months remaining in the semester, giving Wight a large amount of time to prepare for the position.
In the statement from USM Chancellor Robert Caret, he acknowledged that he hopes to welcome Wight onto SU’s campus later this month for a formal announcement.
The accomplishments that Wight has accrued over his career put him at the front of the short list, and Caret acknowledged that was a key factor in the decision.
“In an era of competing pressures on higher education, Charles Wight realized an impressive number of milestones during roughly five years of leading Weber State,” Caret said. “His acumen in fundraising, growing student enrollment and working seamlessly with state and private funding sources position him well to continue Salisbury University’s strong tradition of success.”
Caret also referenced Dudley-Eshbach, again thanking her for her years of service to the Salisbury community and the legacy she is leaving at SU.
Wight is eager to begin this new path in his career, and already wants to make an impact with not just the community, but more specifically the students.
“Interacting with students has always been the most fun part of the job,” Wight said.
During a ceremonial passing of the torch, Wight addressed students and local media by explaining that one of his priorities is focusing on the overall life of students.
It is the responsibility of higher education to help not only with the education of students and preparation for careers, but also in preparation for life as a whole and forming great people. Wight hopes to hold true to that responsibility when he officially begins work at SU.
“I hope that’s really what we do for our students is teach them how the world works and their part in it and how they can change it for good,” Wight said.
Despite such a major change, the first in many years for SU, Wight also informed many that he does not plan on drastically changing anything right away. Though some may have expected an attempt to make a name for himself quickly after such a long time under Dudley-Eshbach, Wight hopes to just continue what the university is doing.
“My first step to listen,” Wight said. “To get to know the students and faculty before I start making important decisions and begin changing things.”
As Wight toured campus and met students he was impressed with each aspect of campus, which could have influenced that mindset. He has seen the growth that the university has had in recent years and hopes to continue that during his tenure as well.
Wight will assume his role as president at SU on July 1 this upcoming summer.
By CHASE GORSKI and HANNAH HYAT
News editor and Staff writer
Featured photo: Dr. Charles Wight named SU's next president (Signpost image).