New president Turner expects growth
By Dariush Shafa, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Kentucky Wesleyan College is scheduled to hold a news conference today to introduce its 33rd president, an academic-turned-administrator with a history of turning things around.
Dr. Craig Turner holds a B.A. in English and history and a master’s in English, both from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and a doctorate in British and American literature from Tulane in New Orleans. He started teaching English in 1976 as a professor at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas.
Turner brought changes at his last two jobs — while president at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., from 2008-11 and as president at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, from 2001-08.
At Catawba College, he helped boost enrollment by 12.2 percent in a single year and reduce the school’s debt by $2.45 million. At Hardin-Simmons, he helped raise more than $49 million in a single fundraising campaign, and the school saw its highest enrollments in its history.
These are the kind of changes Turner said he wants to bring to KWC.
“Obviously, we need to grow,” Turner said, noting that he wants to take the college’s current enrollment of about 800 to 1,200 or so. “That’s a gradual process. It does not need to happen overnight. That will bring the financials up to where they need to be.”
To raise enrollment, Turner said it’s time to look in nearby metro areas such as Evansville, Louisville and Nashville, as well as along the East Coast, where colleges charge much more for an education.
“You have to look at where you’re not recruiting,” Turner said. “We need to go over there and start talking to people about it. We want the word out.”
Turner also noted that KWC should start forming more partnerships with community colleges and expanding its marketing efforts.
“I need to go out and speak. We need to get alumni out speaking,” Turner said. “We need to make ourselves available to do these things so we can get the word out there. And as marketing goes, you have to spend a few dollars.”
Turner also said the school needs to expand grant-seeking, as well as fundraising to help deal with deferred maintenance and capital improvements.
“Part of my job will be to convince people that the dollars they have to invest in the future will be well-invested in Kentucky Wesleyan College,” Turner said.
As far as changes when it comes to the school’s athletic division status, Turner said he needs to look further into that situation. KWC currently has an exploratory committee investigating whether the school should move from its NCAA Division II status to Division III. A decision is expected next year.
“I don’t know enough to give you a definite answer about that,” Turner said. “What’s important about athletics is that it’s a well-run program.”
The big picture
Turner said he never really intended to go into administration, but rather, backed into it because he had the skills for the job. That’s how he became head of the English department at Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss.
“If you have these skills, what I call practical management skills, you’re unusual. You just get asked to do these things,” Turner said. “I enjoy it very much, and people keep asking me to do these things.”
It’s not a big jump to go from English professor to college administrator, Turner said. Leading a school is like picking apart a novel.
“You look at big pictures of things. You learn to analyze,” Turner said. “You don’t just read it for the story, but you learn how it works.”
Turner also said he’s learned that he feels best at smaller, faith-based liberal arts schools.
“My wife and I both feel faith is a critical part of our lives,” Turner said. “At faith-based schools, you have more people who believe in the mission of the school, to grow students not only intellectually, but spiritually as well.”
And at KWC, Turner said, there is the comfortable atmosphere of a shared mission along with a desire for something else, and that suits him well.
“Person after person said, we’re looking for change. We’re ready to move forward,” Turner said. “I just don’t like managing a status quo. For lack of a better term, it’s boring ... The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole.”
A new home
Turner is 64 and has been married to Annette Enloe Turner for 41 years. They have two grown children. Their son, Scott Turner, is 38 and a development officer at Texas Tech University in Dallas. Their daughter, Shannon Hays, is an attorney and homemaker in Allex, Texas. Hays is also the mother of the Turners’ granddaughters, twin 5-year-olds an a 1-year-old.
Craig Turner said his hobbies include reading (he carries a Kindle for light reading, but for the heavier materials he said he prefers a book), watching football and basketball and the occasional home repair project. Ann Turner said she enjoys books also, as well as Bible study. Together, the two enjoy movies and volunteering their time to charities and other causes.
The Turners’ most recent home, Salisbury, N.C., is about half the size of Owensboro. Both he and his wife said they’re looking forward to the comforts of a much larger community. It’s also a good deal closer to Texas (and their granddaughters), which is another fringe benefit.
The Turners said they also are looking forward to spending time in the new downtown, especially at places like the RiverPark Center and at the various businesses that have sprung up.
“That’s lifeblood for cities like this,” Craig Turner said of the offerings downtown. “It’s entrepreneurship at its best.”
Ann Turner said they’ve felt welcomed by all, even the people who have no idea who they are or what brought them to Owensboro.
“The people here are so nice,” Ann Turner said.
And Turner said becoming a part of this community is a welcome challenge.
“One of my favorite things in life is to get to know people,” Craig Turner said.
A news conference introducing the Turners to the community is scheduled at 11 a.m. today in the Smith Lounge at KWC’s Winchester Center.
Dr. Turner will begin his duties at Kentucky Wesleyan on June 1. You can read more information about Dr. Turner here.