Richard L. Dunsworth, J.D., was formally installed as the 25th president of University of the Ozarks during a special Inauguration Ceremony on Friday, April 11, 2014.
The ceremony, which was the culmination of a week-long celebration involving numerous campus events, was attended by more than 500 students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends in historic Raymond Munger Memorial Chapter. The theme for the inauguration was, “A Celebration of Students, Past, Present and Future.”
Dunsworth, 45, was selected by the U of O Board of Trustees to lead the university on Oct. 6, 2012, and began his presidential term in June 2013. He came to Ozarks from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, where he spent most of the past 22 years, serving most recently as interim president and vice president for enrollment. As vice president for enrollment at Millikin from 2004-2013, Dunsworth oversaw numerous departments, including academic development, admission, athletics, financial aid, institutional research, marketing, media relations, registrar, and student development.
A native of Colorado, Dunsworth earned a bachelor of arts in political science from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, becoming the first person in his family to obtain a college degree. He went on to earn a master’s degree in education in 1994 from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston and a juris doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2002.
“It is especially humbling, as more often than not when I look in the mirror I see a fairly simple country boy from the plains of Colorado,” Dunsworth said. “I see someone who but for some key relationships in my life, would probably not have a college degree, let alone three. And I surely would not be leading such a special place as this.”
During his remarks, Dunsworth referenced the 180-year-old university’s tradition as a trend-setter in higher education, citing the fact that the college was the first in the state to admit women, the first predominately white college in the state to graduate African-Americans and among the first in the nation to establish a center for students with learning disabilities.
“Isaiah 1:17 says, ‘Learn to do right. Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow,’” Dunsworth said. “What is the next area of justice we might tackle? I believe it is in the area of economic equality. I believe that our size, our location and our current position could allow us to pivot and do something. I accept the challenge to go where others have not. I appreciate that boldly going where no institution has gone before requires us to break from the pack and to lead. It requires that we create a new path, a new business model, new ways of connecting with each other and possibly new ways to do old business.”
Doug Black, chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees, said the search committee and board’s selection of Dunsworth was unanimous.
“In conducting our search for the next president, it was the sincere and earnest desire of the board and the search committee that we be led by God’s providence to discover and recognize clearly the man or woman that He called to lead Ozarks,” Black said. “After much prayer and serious discussion it became clear to all of us that Rich Dunsworth was that person and our decision to ask him to come was unanimous. When I spoke with Rich after he had accepted, I asked him what was the single most important thing for him to consider in making his decision to join us. He told me that he and Holly had been praying that God would lead them to the place they were to serve Him and they knew in their hearts that Ozarks was that place.”
Black said he has been impressed with Dunsworth’s leadership since he took office last June.
“Rich does not look upon his job here as a position of great authority or celebrity, but instead as his calling,” Black said. “In the short time he has been with us, he has proven that he possesses the unique professional skills and experience we need to lead and guide us through the days ahead in addressing the challenges with which we are faced. In Rich, God has brought to us a humble man, possessed of great character, integrity and a deep and abiding faith that is the basis of his leadership. We are indeed fortunate to have this gentleman who is sincerely and genuinely dedicated to serving our students and our University family.”
In giving special thanks to those who support the University’s students with their philanthropic gifts, Dunsworth surprised the gathering with the formal announcement of a significant monetary gift to the University from Frances E. Wilson of Tulsa, Okla. Wilson’s gift was made in memory of her husband, Tommy D. Wilson, and a large portion of it will be used to fund immediate capital improvements to the university’s historic, 81-year-old Raymond Munger Memorial Chapel, the building in which the ceremony was held. The remaining balance of the gift will create an endowment for the perpetual maintenance of the Chapel.
Steve Edmisten, special assistant to President Dunsworth, said that Wilson, “expressed great joy in making her gift to the University in memory of her husband, and was particularly pleased that President Dunsworth would make the announcement at an inauguration ceremony in which the president so prominently honored God.”