By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
PINEVILLE – For the past 28 years, Rick Brewer has called Charleston Southern University home.
But on April 7, Brewer will write a new chapter in his collegiate administrator life when he becomes the 9th full-time president of Louisiana College — two others have served as interims.
Trustees of the college unanimously voted for Brewer during a special called meeting on March 5 to guide the college.
Calling it a job that wasn’t even on his radar until a few months ago, Brewer said the opportunity to become the college’s new president was clearly a thing of God.
“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 the 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.
SACS experience, student transformation
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 LC move off of probation status. Placed on probation in 2014, the probationary status in no way affects the current accreditation of LC.
“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 names of 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 his resume and met with him, they were convinced Brewer 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.”
A New Orleans native, Brewer’s father attended seminary there. Brewer earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Business Administration from Charleston Southern and a PhD 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, SC, 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 LC.
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.