B. James Dawson, the 20th president of Lincoln Memorial University (LMU), will retire at the end of the 2016-17 academic year. He will continue his service to the University as President Emeritus.
For the past eight years Dawson has led the dynamic institution while it continued on a meteoric trajectory of growth. He first served as chief operating officer and chancellor of the main campus in Harrogate, while the University conducted a nationwide search for a new president. A year later, he was inaugurated during homecoming activities.
“Jim Dawson has poured his heart and soul into this University for eight years,” said Dr. Autry O.V. “Pete” DeBusk, chairman of the LMU Board of Trustees. “His distinguished service is one of the reasons LMU has risen above many of her peers and is recognized as an innovative leader in higher education.”
During Dawson’s presidency LMU ascended to Level VI Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) accreditation, opened the doors to the LMU-John J. Duncan, Jr. School of Law, started a Doctorate of Education program and founded the LMU-College of Veterinary Medicine. The University expanded its physical plant with the construction of the Village Apartments and the Hamilton Math and Science building. He oversaw the acquisition and renovation of properties in the historic town of Cumberland Gap and championed the “Arts in the Gap” programming that followed. LMU opened several extended learning sites during his tenure, including LMU-Cedar Bluff in Knoxville, and the new Caylor School of Nursing facility in Corbin, Kentucky. Dawson also contributed greatly to LMU’s advancement work, as the institution raised nearly $40 million since 2010.
Dawson came to LMU after retiring from Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina, where he served as president for seven years. With Dawson at the helm, Coker College successfully completed a $23 million capital campaign. This fundraising effort enabled the college to make significant investments in the campus community, including the construction of the 40,000-square foot, $6.5 million Charles W. and Joan S. Coker Library-Information Technology Center. Several millions of dollars also went to improving academic programs, residence halls and campus landscaping. Coker College also experienced considerable enrollment growth during Dawson’s presidency. Dawson served his first presidency at Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens, Tennessee, where he served from 1995 until 2002.
A native Hoosier, Dawson earned a B.A. and a M.A. at the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana, and began his academic career at his alma mater where he started as an admissions counselor. While still working at the University of Evansville, he received his doctorate in administration of higher education from Indiana University. During his tenure at the University of Evansville, Dawson held a variety of administrative positions culminating with a Vice President post.
In 1988 Dawson moved on to Fort Hays State University where he served as the Vice President for Student and Institution Development. He was responsible for development, alumni relations, public relations and governmental relations at the institution, which is part of the Kansas Regents system.
Dawson gained national recognition for his contributions to the field of alcohol and drug abuse prevention. As a member of the Presidents Leadership Group, he joined five other college and university presidents in a concerted effort to involve the leadership of institutions of higher education in the fight against irresponsible and illegal use of drugs and alcohol. He also served on the national board for BACCHUS and Gamma. The BACCHUS Network is a university and community based network focusing on comprehensive health and safety initiatives.
He is a Paul Harris Fellow with Rotary International and completed the CASE Institute for Advancement at Dartmouth College. Dawson and his wife, Karen, have two children and three grandchildren.