The University of the District of Columbia has named a new interim president. Dr. James Earl Lyons, Sr. took his seat on March 20.
Officials said Lyons’ administrative experience at universities makes him more than equipped for the position. In a statement, university officials said Lyons "will lead the University's efforts to chart a new vision and strategic direction."
“Dr. Lyons brings an impressive academic history, having served as president of three universities over the past three decades,” Elaine Crider, chairwoman of the UDC Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “We are very fortunate to have Dr. Lyons join us at this important time and will certainly benefit from his extensive leadership experience.”
In his own statement, Lyons said he is excited about taking the helm at UDC.
“I have continually supported the University through my years as an educational leader in the neighboring state of Maryland, and feel honored to have this opportunity to serve as Interim President.”
Lyons indicated that at least one of his priorities will be instruction. “The University of the District of Columbia plays a vital role in ensuring District residents have accessible and affordable higher educational options, and it is imperative that we have the career ladders they can rely on for workforce development and professional and advance degrees," he said in a statement.
Lyons was introduced to the campus community at a news conference on March 21. University officials hope his appointment will lay to rest the controversy that surrounded former president Allen Sessoms, who was fired by the board of trustees in December. Sessoms drew criticism to himself and embarrassment to the university for his excessive spending, including lavishing himself with first-class accommodations and travel. Some of his administrative decisions were also questioned. Sessoms was the subject of a D.C. Council hearing and a student protest before he was dismissed.
Lyons is a graduate of the University of Connecticut, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Spanish in 1965. He received his master’s degree in Student Personnel six years later, in 1971, and a Ph.D. in Higher Educational Administration two years after that. Upon completing his doctoral studies, he attended the Harvard University Institute for Educational Management. His fields of study at Harvard included finance, marketing, labor relations, affirmative action and personnel management.
Lyons has extensive experience as a college administrator. He was tapped as president of Bowie State University in Prince George’s County in 1983. His next post was at Jackson State University in Mississippi, where he served as president from 1992 until 1999, when he was named president of California State University, Dominiguez Hills. From 2007 until 2010, he served as secretary of the Maryland Higher Educational Commission.
Lyons also holds posts on several boards and committees, including the Task Force on At Risk Drinking at the National Institute of Health (NIH), the United States Dream Academy, the National Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the American Council on Education. He is also a former member of the Board of Trustees at Dillard University in New Orleans.
Lyons lives in Maryland with his wife Jocelyn, and their sons Jack, Jamal, and James, Jr.