By Joan C. McKinney, director of university communications
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – Dr. H. Keith Spears, senior vice president and assistant to the president at Campbellsville University, has been appointed acting president for the university.
Spears’ appointment follows the recent retirement of Dr. Michael V. Carter as president of the university. While assuming several presidential duties immediately, Spears officially assumes the office Jan. 1, 2021.
“We are pleased that we have a seasoned leader like Dr. Spears to take on the presidential duties for the university,” said Henry Lee, chair for the Campbellsville University Board of Trustees. “He is the right person for this critical time for the university.”
Spears has served CU since 2009. His leadership roles have changed over the years leading up to his extensive work with the president’s office. “I am honored to be asked to carry forward the mission of this great institution,” said Spears. “This is a responsibility that is to be taken seriously on behalf of everyone connected to Campbellsville University.”
Spears has recently led the Vice President’s Cabinet.
“Keith Spears has invaluable experience working with faculty and students from across America and around the world. His strength is in originating and communicating new and innovative ways to bring Christian higher education to deserving students,” said Provost Dr. Donna Hedgepath.
After developing the Louisville Education Center and other regional centers, he served as vice president for communication and assistant to the president at Campbellsville University from 2016 until the summer of 2019 when he was named senior vice president.
Dr. Shane Garrison, vice president for enrollment, said, “Dr. Spears has been instrumental in much of the recent growth of Campbellsville University. His proven track record of leadership speaks for itself.”
Spears’ visionary accomplishment has been in the development of graduate programming for CU, including the Master of Science in Information Technology (MSITM). Graduate degrees following the MSITM format have led the institution to record enrollments that is now more than 13,500 compared to 2,724 prior to Spears’ influence.
“The CU success comes from a great team of individuals, who collectively have a desire to serve university students,” said Spears. “Our vice presidents lead their respective areas with a professional and caring mindset. They are forefront in achieving our goals.”
Benji Kelly, vice president for development, said, “Dr. Spears’ experience and leadership will allow Campbellsville University to continue to be strong during this interim period. His vision and years of experience in higher education have benefited Campbellsville University well. We all look forward to continue to work with him.”
Spears has brought entrepreneurial ideas to the university with the creation and expansion of online programs and offices in India and China and with preliminary results for new academic opportunities in Europe, Africa and Central America.
The university was recently approved by the Ministry of Education in Ontario, Canada for yet another new center in Windsor, Ontario, a Spears’ initiative.
“Keith sees an idea and runs with it,” said Otto Tennant, senior vice president for operations and administration. “He studies the issue, obtains data and works with a team to develop the project, formulate a plan and make it happen. He is someone who overcomes the impossible and makes it a reality.”
Spears’ immediate past role had him overseeing educational centers in Louisville, Somerset, Harrodsburg, Hodgenville, Liberty and Albany, all in Kentucky, and others in California, as well as international ventures.
Rusty Hollingsworth, vice president for student services and athletics, said, “Dr. Spears has demonstrated, the ability to lead us through this very important transition period. His years of experience in higher education will be extremely valuable to the campus community.”
Spears has also been in charge of the communications, broadcast, creative design, church outreach, university outreach and the Flanagan Technology Training Center.
“I look forward to working collaboratively with Dr. Spears to continue the great mission of the university,” said Tim Judd, vice president for finance. “Together we can ensure the financial stability of the school remains strong and continues to grow for future generations.”
Dr. John Chowning, executive assistant to the president of Campbellsville University for government, community and constituent relations, said, “Dr. Keith Spears brings significant experience in higher education, including more than a decade of senior administrative leadership at Campbellsville University, to the role of acting president. He has the depth of knowledge of the higher education field and the breadth of experience in leadership to provide continuity and forward movement for the university into 2021.”
Immediately preceding his appointment at Campbellsville University Spears worked in the then Gov. Joe Manchin’s administration at the state capitol in Charleston, W.Va., from 2007 to 2009.
From 1997 to 2007, Spears was vice president for institutional advancement/communications and marketing at Marshall University. While there, he co-led a $100 million capital campaign and served as chief consultant for the Warner Brothers movie, “We Are Marshall.”
He was dean/director of adult and extended education at Marshall University from 1991 to 1997 where he developed university distance learning and regional centers.
His tenure at Marshall University incudes being chair of the Department of Speech, general manager of television and radio and professor of Mass Communication.
Spears has an Ed.D. degree in Higher Education Administration from West Virginia University; a Master of Arts in Communication Arts from Marshall University; a Master of Arts in Educational Broadcasting from Central Michigan University; and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biological Science from Marshall.
He has a post-doctorate certificate from Harvard University’s Institute in Lifelong Education and Strategic Leadership at Duke University.
Spears has had an extensive list of presentations, television documentaries and newspaper columns produced on a wide multiplicity of educational topics.
Spears owned and operated a communications/public affairs/marketing company for 10 years and also owned and operated amusement parks in West Virginia and Indiana. He has developed and upgraded five FM radio stations.
He and his wife, Rita Kay Spears, former adult student advisor at Marshall University, have two children: Eric Keith Spears, Ph.D., professor and Eminent Scholar and chair of International Education at Columbus State University in Georgia; and Honorable Jason M. Spears, J.D., family court judge in Cabell County, W.Va.
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 13,500 students offering over 100 programs of study including Ph.D., master, baccalaureate, associate, pre-professional and certification programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.