Alison Morrison-Shetlar, who served as chief executive officer of Western Carolina University for 18 months, soon will be the top leader of an institution of higher education without the terms “acting” or “interim” as part of her title.
The University of Lynchburg announced Monday, Nov. 18, that Morrison-Shetlar will become the institution’s 11th president beginning in July of 2020. She will succeed Kenneth Garren, who will be retiring next summer after serving as Lynchburg’s president since 2001.
Morrison-Shetlar said that being a college president or chancellor has been a long-term goal of hers, and she is looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that await her. She also said she will miss her Cullowhee co-workers as she takes the next step in her career.
“I was so blessed to work with great people and to be able to collaborate across the institution and in all divisions toward a mutual goal of making WCU the place it is today,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “I was most fortunate to have gained a diverse set of experiences at WCU that have prepared me well to become the next president of the University of Lynchburg. The support of everyone at WCU has been overwhelming, and I am so grateful for my colleagues and friends that make a difference in the lives of students every day.”
She will be the first woman and the first person born outside the U.S. to serve as president of the University of Lynchburg. Morrison-Shetlar will remain at WCU until July 2020, and her husband, Bob Shetlar, will continue to teach at WCU next semester before becoming Lynchburg’s first “first gentleman.”
A native of Scotland, Morrison-Shetlar came to WCU as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs in January 2014. She started serving as WCU’s acting chancellor when Chancellor David O. Belcher began taking medical leave Jan. 1, 2018, and she became interim chancellor upon Belcher’s death in June 2018. She also served for nine months as interim vice chancellor for development.
With the arrival on July 1 of this year of Kelli R. Brown as WCU’s 12th chancellor, Morrison-Shetlar returned to her role as provost and chief academic officer. She then departed that role to assume a position as a faculty member in the Department of Biology that was to have been effective next fall after a period of research leave, when the University of Lynchburg came calling.
“Dr. Morrison-Shetlar is accomplished as both an educator and a leader in private and public higher education,” said Nathaniel Marshall, chair of the Board of Trustees at Lynchburg. “She has shown a commitment to quality teaching, research and collaborative leadership. We are excited to work with her and to introduce her to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the university in the coming year.”
The university launched its presidential search in 2018, and a search committee reviewed materials for more than 100 candidates, said Kathryn M. Pumphrey, a Lynchburg trustee and lead co-chair of the committee.
“The presidential search committee reviewed many highly qualified candidates, but, ultimately, we believe that Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar’s qualifications match the university’s needs perfectly,” said Pumphrey. “Dr. Morrison-Shetlar brings with her a diverse skill set, which includes collaborative leadership, a strong academic background, fundraising acumen and a deep understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing higher education today.”
The University of Lynchburg is a private university located in Lynchburg, Virginia, with approximately 3,200 undergraduate and graduate students.