JONESBORO – The university community received word today that Dr. Robert L. Potts of Florence, Ala., former chancellor at Arkansas State University, has died following a lengthy illness. The university is awaiting service details and will announce those when received from the family.
With the development of the Arkansas State University System, Potts was the first individual to be appointed chancellor at A-State, in the fall of 2006.
Under Potts’s leadership, enrollment grew by 23%, fundraising set records, globalization initiatives were extremely effective, and annual research funding increased significantly. An advocate for developing the system of campus shared governance, he and his executive team oversaw major progress with enriching the university environment by making the campus a destination for international students, and making higher education more accessible through growth of online degree programs.
He also took particular pride in organizing the Chancellor’s Cabinet, now called the Chancellor’s Circle, an organization of individuals dedicated to the advancement of the university by supporting the chancellor and his special initiatives to benefit students. Potts also worked with alumni Buddy and Charlotte Beck to establish the Beck Center for Veterans, which supports those seeking educational opportunities after returning to civilian life following service to their country.
During his term, the university secured one of the largest grants in its history to construct the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Health Sciences.
When Arkansas State University celebrated its centennial in 2009, Potts wrote words that still hold true today. “For today’s student, coming to Arkansas State is a good choice, no matter which field of study is selected. Students will find a sound and firm foundation here with a group of faculty, staff and administration who genuinely want students to succeed and bring credit to this great university.”
Potts was asked by the Board of Trustees in 2010 to serve as interim president of the ASU System and assist with identifying a permanent successor to Dr. Les Wyatt, who had stepped down from that position. Potts had previous experience as chief executive of a state system of campuses, having served as chancellor of the North Dakota University System, before moving to Jonesboro. Earlier in his career, Potts had served as president of the University of North Alabama and as general counsel for the University of Alabama System.
Following his System leadership of almost a year, he retired in 2011 after Dr. Charles Welch was appointed president. Potts resumed his retirement plans and with his wife, Irene, returned to their home in Florence, where he remained engaged in business interests in that area.
“Robert was a wonderful predecessor,” said Welch. “He was kind to me and my family and selflessly agreed to delay his retirement to allow me to fulfill my obligations before joining the ASU System. I’ll always be indebted to him and hold him in high regard. Our prayers are with Irene and their family.”
In addition to his wife, survivors include two children, Julie Anna Potts and Les Potts, and their families.