LSU picks new leader, naming system’s first Black president

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana State University chose its new leader Thursday, naming William Tate as the university system’s first Black president.

Tate, provost at the University of South Carolina, was the unanimous pick of the LSU Board of Supervisors after public in-person interviews with three finalists and 90 minutes of closed-door debate among board members. He’ll start the job as LSU president — overseeing multiple campuses and serving as chancellor of the flagship campus in Baton Rouge — in July.

“We set about to find a great leader, and we found one,” said Robert Dampf, chairman of the LSU board.

In addition to becoming LSU’s first Black president, Tate will be the first African American university president in the Southeastern Conference, Gov. John Bel Edwards said. The Democratic governor, whose appointees fill the LSU board, issued a statement congratulating Tate and saying he’s confident Tate “is the right person to lead LSU.”

“He has expressed a desire to ensure that more students have the opportunity for higher education at the schools in LSU’s system, including more minority students, those from rural areas and those who face financial challenges. He will also be charged with attracting first class researchers and research funding to our state as we seek to continue and expand LSU’s role as a national leader in innovation and discovery,” Edwards said.

Tate, 56, will take charge of a system in the midst of several controversies, including an independent report that found widespread mishandling of sexual misconduct claims at LSU’s main campus in Baton Rouge and separate allegations of sexual harassment against the leader of LSU’s medical school in Shreveport.

Terms of Tate’s contract with LSU haven’t been finalized, Dampf said.

“For me, this position is all about what we can do to help students and give people access and opportunity in higher education,” Tate said in a statement. “That’s really in my DNA, how do we help people regardless of their background — we find the money, get you here and give you the opportunity to live your dream. I think there is no better place in the United States to come find your dream and to make it happen then right here at LSU.”

Tate has been executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of South Carolina since July 2020. Before working there, the new president worked as graduate school dean and vice provost for graduate education at Washington University in St. Louis, was a professor at Texas Christian University and served on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

He has a Ph.D. in mathematics education, master’s degree in psychiatric epidemiology and a bachelor’s degree in economics.

The LSU System includes campuses in Baton Rouge, Alexandria and Eunice, medical schools in New Orleans and Shreveport, a law school, an agricultural center and research facilities spread across the state.

The Board of Supervisors interviewed three finalists Thursday: Tate, Kelvin Droegemeier and Jim Henderson. Droegemeier is the former director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under former President Donald Trump’s administration. Henderson is the president of the University of Louisiana System.

Tate said he learned about the LSU job at a dinner at the Governor’s Mansion that he attended with Bob Caslen, the University of South Carolina president, ahead of an October football game between LSU and South Carolina. Caslen and Edwards are both West Point graduates. Tate said the search firm looking for possible LSU president contenders later contacted him about whether he’d be interested in the position.

The LSU System job became open when F. King Alexander announced in December 2019 that he was leaving for a similar post leading Oregon State University. Alexander recently resigned from Oregon State because of his role in the mishandling of sexual misconduct cases at LSU. Tom Galligan, then-dean of the LSU law school, has served as interim president since January 2020.