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President Alexander Whitaker to Conclude Eight-Year Tenure at King

October 16, 2023

King University President Alexander Whitaker will conclude his eight-year tenure as the school’s chief executive at the end of the 2023-24 academic year.

Whitaker made the announcement to the King community after telling King’s Board of Trustees at their recent meeting. A nationwide search for the school’s next president, led by CarterBaldwin Executive Search and supported by King’s trustees, faculty, and staff, is underway. CarterBaldwin is the same firm that was employed by the University to recruit candidates in the 2016 search.

“President Whitaker’s leadership has fostered a steadfast era of strengthening and renewal,” said Scott Maclellan, chair of the board. “He has been exactly the right leader at the right time, navigating King through many difficult challenges, and he leaves us with rising traditional enrollment, low institutional debt, and a renewed commitment to King’s Christian and academic missions.”

Whitaker, who is King’s 23rd president, retired as captain from the Navy in 2007 after a 25-year career. He came to King in 2016 from Berry College in Rome, Georgia, where he was chief of staff.

To date, his accomplishments at King have included successful reaffirmation of the University’s accreditation, a complete revamping of the school’s nursing program – now consistently ranked among the best in the region – and a complete renovation of the nursing lab, with state-of-the-art simulators and equipment expected to be installed in the coming months. Under his guidance, the University has also increased the percentage of professors with terminal degrees and fostered the development of new programs, including exercise science and graduate-level nursing and social work degrees.

Whitaker also championed a robust free speech policy for the University, which was unanimously approved by the board and faculty, making King one of the few Christian colleges to embrace free expression as consistent with basic assumptions of the Christian faith.

Campus improvements since his arrival include renovations and refurbishment of the dining hall, admissions center, and Memorial Chapel, continued restoration of King’s historic brick walkways, improvements to residence halls, and renewed attention to the grounds. A new, state-of-the-art track and field complex is currently under construction on King’s west campus and will open later this year.

Whitaker’s tenure has also seen many noteworthy gifts to the school, including the largest-ever individual alumni gift, as well as the largest unrestricted financial gift in the school’s 157-year history. The school recently celebrated the Trayer Charitable Trust’s gift of Steinway & Sons pianos, which helped transform the college’s music department.

As president, he has served on the boards of numerous higher education organizations, including those of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), Tennessee Independent College and University Association (TICUA), and Appalachian College Association (ACA). He is in his final year as president of NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas.

Locally, Whitaker has served on the boards of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Advance Bristol. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Bristol.

“What an extraordinary privilege it has been to lead such a school, working in challenging times alongside a dedicated group of faculty and staff, and with a supportive governing board that would be the envy of any college president,” said Whitaker. “This is a difficult era for private higher education, but I believe with solid support from alumni and from Bristol friends, especially, King’s future can be very bright. It is critical that as Bristol’s only remaining college, King flourishes and continues to create graduates of exceptional quality for our region and beyond. Maria and I will always be full of gratitude for the warm embrace extended to us by the King and Bristol communities.”

“President Whitaker and Maria have certainly earned time to spend with their five grandchildren, all of whom have arrived since he became president,” Maclellan said. “We look forward to the Whitakers’ continued involvement in our university community, which has greatly benefited from their wholehearted support and investment of themselves.”