- Associated Press - Thursday, October 19, 2017

ITTA BENA, Miss. (AP) - Jerryl Briggs will be the next president of Mississippi’s smallest university.

College Board trustees voted in closed session Thursday to elevate Briggs, acting president at Mississippi Valley State University since June, to the post without a broad search.

Trustee Shane Hooper of Tupelo, who led a search committee, said the board chose Briggs because he’s helped improve Valley as executive vice president and chief operating officer. He and Higher Education Commissioner Glenn Boyce made the announcement Thursday on the 2,500-student Itta Bena campus.

Briggs said he’s focused on building an institution serving the Mississippi Delta that will give students a path to success in life.

“It’s really about the opportunity for our students to be successful in their careers,” Briggs said.

Previous president William Bynum Jr. left in June to become president of Jackson State University. Bynum endorsed Briggs to succeed him as Valley’s eighth president.

Trustees cited an enrollment increase of 11 percent from 2013 to 2016, better retention of existing students, and a 65 percent increase in the university’s cash reserves as proof that Valley is in good hands.

“You have someone who is focusing on the students and then the students’ success results in financial success.”

Valley had struggled before Bynum arrived, and Hooper said trustees wanted to avoid instability.

“You definitely don’t want to go back to the bad old days,” he said.

Some Valley alumni, faculty and students supported Briggs’ elevation without a full search at a meeting with trustees last week.

Hooper said trustees intend to sign a four-year contract with Briggs, paying him a total of $225,000 a year, with $10,000 of that amount privately raised by Valley’s foundation and the rest from university funds.

Briggs, 56, is a New Orleans native who earned a bachelor’s degree from Xavier University of Louisiana, a master’s degree from Louisiana Tech University and an educational specialist and doctoral degree from the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

Briggs previously held high administrative positions at Central State University in Ohio and Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

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