By Kimberly Olivera
Dr. Douglas Searcy has settled in as the new president of Barton College.
He took over the reins on July 1 with the retirement of Dr. Norval Kneten, who became Barton president in 2003.
Searcy said he is thrilled to be a part of Barton. He decided to come to Barton because he liked the academic quality of the institution and the strength of the people.
He said he was attracted to the fact that Barton is a liberal arts school and to the study abroad education program. The focus on critical thinking, speaking and writing are all very important for students, he said.
Searcy said the quality of the community and education, and the strong partnership between Wilson and Barton are unique, as well as special, in so many ways.
A native of Hendersonville in the North Carolina mountains, Searcy attended Mars Hill University in Mars Hill, North Carolina. He double majored in English and communications with a minor in business.
He earned his master’s degree in education from the University of South Carolina.
He said he also has a Ph.D. in leadership in higher education from the University of Nebraska.
He said Mars Hill University is a liberal arts institution some 45 minutes away from where he grew up. He said that he appreciated the size and type of institution that Mars Hill was.
Searcy said one reason he was so drawn to Barton is because he is familiar with the type of environment and community that Barton has. He said he understands the mission, understands what the college is trying to accomplish and understands the faculty, the staff and the students.
“I feel like I’m at home with Barton,” said Searcy.
Searcy previously worked at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia as the vice president for student affairs.
Prior to his appointment at the University of Mary Washington, he served as dean of student affairs at Wingate University. He also served in earlier administrative staff roles at Elon University, Gardner-Webb University, and Appalachian State University.
He said after discovering Barton, he decided that it was time to move. He said he was drawn to Barton as well as to an environment that was centered around education, where students were learning and growing at the same time.
He said being part of the community and making a contribution was very important. He said his two children are also very involved in the community and that he usually attends games with them.
Searcy’s children are Carter, a 16- year-old who attends Fike High School, and Caroline, a 13 year-old in the eighth grader at Toisnot Middle school. He and his wife Beth have been married 18 years.
“College is where students decide what they want to do with their future and how they want to make an impact on the world around them,” said Searcy. “Being a part of that transformation is something that I have enjoyed contributing to throughout my career.”
He said he always wanted to work in higher education and that he couldn’t have thought of a better job or a better place to work. He said he believes in the work he does and loves the way Barton engages students and spends time with them.
“We’re all working toward the same goal,” said Searcy. He said that he is fully committed as Barton’s leader.
Keisha Parker, SGA president and a senior, said she met Searcy during her time on the presidential search committee. She said he’s a fantastic person and that he really cares about the students.
“I enjoy working with him so much and cannot wait to see what he can do for our school,” said Parker.
“I love it,” Searcy said about being at Barton and in Wilson. He said since he arrived in July, he’s made a point to meet as many people as possible.
He said he’d heard great stories about Barton, about how people love the institution and how it’s considered a second home for students.
He said it’s great learning about the people and when people are connected like that, the faculty does a good job and the students enjoy being on campus. He said it is exciting to be in the Barton community because the energy is so positive and there are so many great ideas.
“I enjoy coming to work every day. I look forward to it,” he said.
Searcy said his favorite food is fried shrimp. He said he’s also a big fan of fresh fruit, in particular pineapple and strawberries.
When asked about his hobbies, Searcy said he likes to go running and jogging, but that he spends most of his time doing activities with his family.
He said he’s very involved with the community and likes to spend time there. He said he and his family are thrilled to be a part of the Barton community.
“Dr. Searcy and his wife, Beth, will bring to Barton College the strong, collegial, and visionary leadership that the College community and the city and county of Wilson so richly deserve,” said Gregg DeMar, chairman of Barton’s board of trustees. “The trustees enthusiastically look forward to continued progress and uninterrupted, dynamic institutional leadership for Barton College for the foreseeable future. The trustees and I wish for Dr. Searcy a long and prosperous tenure as president of Barton College.”