FLORENCE---Francis Marion University president Lee A. Vickers has been named president of Dickinson State University in North Dakota. The announcement was made late this afternoon at a meeting of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education
Vickers will assume the presidency of the regional four-year institution within the North Dakota University System in early summer.
Located near the rugged and beautiful Badlands, Dickinson State serves the West River North Dakota region and parts of South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Canada.
DSU academic programs include liberal arts and specialized programs in business, health services, agriculture and computer science. In 1997, U.S. News & World Report magazine rated Dickinson as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the Midwest.
"I am delighted to be chosen president of Dickinson State," said Vickers. "Deanna and I look forward to this new challenge and working with the students, faculty, staff and alumni of DSU to continue the institution's development as a regional university in the North Dakota System."
Vickers has been president of Francis Marion University since 1994. Prior to that he was president of Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho from 1978 to 1994.
"Deanna and I have appreciated the opportunity to serve at Francis Marion University and to help make a difference for students and for the future well-being of the institution," said Vickers. "It has been our privilege to work with many talented and dedicated faculty and staff at FMU. Together, we have endeavored to create a student-centered learning environment focused on excellence. There have been a number of significant changes at the university--all with a focus on national benchmarks. Although necessary, change is often difficult."
Vickers continued, "We are very excited about returning to the West where our three children and families reside. Dickinson State University is just what we are seeking-a small regional campus with a reputation for having a student-centered learning environment and a focus on excellence."
"In the short time we have lived here, we have had enjoyed our involvement in the greater Florence community, with the Pee Dee Education Center, the Chamber of Commerce, the United Way, and the Rotary Club, among others."
"We will miss the friends we have made here and the colleagues with whom we have had the privilege of working. And of course, we will miss the students of Francis Marion University for whom we have tried to make a difference."
A native of Laramie, Wyoming, Vickers grew up in Denver, Colo. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Adams State College in Colorado. He received his doctorate in counseling and higher education administration at the University of Wyoming.
Since coming to FMU, Vickers has been instrumental in increasing academic standards, improving services to students, and getting the campus more involved in the community and surrounding region. Under his leadership, admissions standards have been raised, and the university is now reviewing its general education requirements for graduation. He placed heavy emphasis on assessment and accountability, and providing a learning environment that was focused on students.
He led the campus through re-accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and during his tenure, a number of individual academic programs received specialized accreditation (business, theatre, art, psychology and chemistry). He reorganized the campus into three major academic programs--the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, and the School of Education, Behavioral and Social Sciences. He also pushed continuing education and distance
learning programs and increased off-campus contract courses to better serve school districts and the business community.
Following the citing of major problems during the SACS process, Vickers led an effort to rework the governance of the campus, including new bylaws for the Board of Trustees and a new faculty constitution. He also developed and implemented an institutional effectiveness program, including a comprehensive faculty evaluation system, post-tenure review and tenure and promotion standards.
Vickers also created an Intensive English Institute to provide instruction for international students seeking language proficiency for acceptance into an institution of higher education. He also developed the university's first-ever foreign exchange program with the University of Basil in Switzerland.
Vickers has been instrumental in technological improvements on campus, including Internet access, creating satellite computer labs, construction of a distance learning classroom, and developing the campus as host site for a public access television channel on Time Warner cable.
He promoted public school partnership programs that provide services and interaction with school districts in the Pee Dee region. He also led the effort to establish the FMU Research Park in partnership with the S.C. Research Authority and the City and County of Florence.
During his presidency, private contributions to the university increased dramatically, with FMU Foundation assets doubling from 1995 to1998.
Other initiatives have included implementing a number of retention and recruitment strategies; improving services in student life programs; modifying the Honors Program to attract and retain highly qualified and motivated students; developing a living and learning residence hall program; and creating a writing across the curriculum program to improve writing skills of students.
Vickers has also been very active in the Florence community, serving as the 1998-99 chairman of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce. He was president of the South Carolina Association of Colleges and Universities in 1998, and he served as president of the Peach Belt Athletic Conference in 1998-99.
During his tenure, FMU won the Commissioner's Cup in 1997-98, indicative of the best all-around program in the Peach Belt Athletic Conference, which includes schools from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
During his tenure at Lewis-Clark State College, through appointments by two Idaho governors, he served eight years on the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, including a stint as chairman in 1993. He also served two terms on the Idaho District Export Council which recognized him for "significant contributions toward increasing international education."
Active in international education, he established a renowned International Exchange Conference on the Lewis-Clark campus that brought business leaders, scholars and government officials together for exchanges with delegates from countries around the world. Vickers also established an Intensive English Language Institute and the Pacific International Institute on the Idaho campus. He is affiliated with the International Association of University Presidents.
His wife, Deanna, served in the Idaho Legislature for three consecutive terms, 1987 to 1993. She has been active in many aspects of community life, including the arts, historic preservation and conservation. She served on the Advisory Board for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, based in Washington, D.C., on the Idaho Heritage Trust Regional Council and managed the Lewis-Clark Center for Arts and History. She is currently serving on the Florence County United Way Board and the Alliance for South Carolina’s Children.
The couple has three grown children, two sons and a daughter, all residing in the West.