Long-time High Ed Leader and Lawyer W. Ellis Arnold III Announces Retirement as President of Hendrix
W. Ellis Arnold III ’79, elected the 12th President of Hendrix College (Conway, Arkansas) in November 2019 (taking office in December 2019), announced his retirement in June 2023. He previously served as president of Lambuth University in Jackson, TN. Both colleges are affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
Discussed in more detail in May it Please the Campus: Lawyers Leading Higher Education, about 27% of the presidents of religiously affiliated colleges and universities in the last decade are lawyers. The number of lawyer presidents at religiously affiliated schools tripled from the 1990s to the 2000s, and more than doubled from the 2000s to the 2010s. There are many reasons for this upward trend, not the least of which is the delicate balance of compliance with federal and state regulations and the desire in some cases to hold to conflicting deeply held religious values and beliefs.
During a November 9, 2022 presentation sponsored by the Steel Center at Hendrix College, President Arnold, he described how he was recruited to Hendrix as a career move in 1990. Following his graduation from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law in 1982, he practiced law in Little Rock. Then-Hendrix President Dr. Joe B. Hatcher asked Arnold to serve as Vice President for Development and College Relations and lead the College’s church relations, communications, fundraising, and marketing, in addition to serving as General Counsel. Within a year of his arrival on campus (at age 33), President Hatcher announced he was leaving. When Ellis Arnold left to go to Lambuth University – he felt what that school articulated that it needed – he had. He has also served as acting president of Hendrix on two occasions.
President Arnold finished $150M campaign and the endowment soared to record levels of over $230M before he announced he was stepping down. The two things that were most important to him were the faculty and the residential experience for the students. When asked what his favorite role was – he said his first one working with President Hatcher – he never felt he was going to work a single day. He also noted that when the Associated Colleges of the South invited them join and then the National Collegiate Athletic Association invited Hendrix as well, these were game changers to help equate Hendrix with other quality liberal arts schools, helping them to recruit more regionally.
President Arnold’s retirement next year will conclude a successful 33-year career in education leadership, including 17 years as a President.