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Dr. David P. Nelson Named 24th President of Catawba College

April 9, 2020

Category: Academics, Faculty, Staff, Students

co-dpn.jpgDr. David P. Nelson, president of Boston's Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt), will be the 24th President of Catawba College, the College officially announced on Thursday.

The Catawba College Board of Trustees elected Dr. Nelson as its 24th President on March 11. Dr. Nelson accepted the nomination and will begin his duties on July 1, 2020. Dr. Nelson replaces Brien Lewis, who earlier this year was selected as President of Transylvania University in Lexington, KY.

"On behalf of the trustees, Catawba College welcomes Dr. Nelson to our College," said William (Bill) M. Graham '83, chairman of the Board of Trustees. "David brings strong academic experience and executive leadership to the Catawba presidency, and we look forward to working with him as the College focuses on our future through sustainable growth and engaging curricular and co-curricular experiences."

Graham continued, "David was the clear choice for moving the College's Mission and Values forward given his diverse background demonstrating strategic and organizational success, fulfilling community engagement within and outside the College, and transformative and collaborative vision."

"We look forward to welcoming David and his wife, Kimberly, to the Catawba and Salisbury community this summer," Graham concluded.

Dr. Nelson began his tenure as the 12th President of MassArt in 2016, leading the public art and design institution with over 450 employees and an $80 million annual budget, serving over 2,000 graduate and undergraduate students who seek degrees and certificates in art, design, and education.

Catawba is a vibrant learning community that prepares students for meaningful life and work,” says Dr. Nelson. “While the next few years may look different than any of us would have imagined just a matter of weeks ago, I am confident that the extraordinary people at Catawba along with the Salisbury/Rowan community will meet the extraordinary challenges ahead of us with energy, creativity, and resolve. I am eager to join in that work.

- Dr. David P. Nelson, Catawba's 24th President

Dr. Nelson's accomplishments while at MassArt include:

  • exceeding a $12 million capital campaign goal, and raising MassArt's first $1 million gifts, to renovate education space and launch the MassArt Art Museum (MAAM). The new contemporary art museum is free and open to the public, increasing MassArt's capacity to feature emerging artists and to expand gallery education programs throughout the community.
  • leading the College through three consecutive years of balanced budgets and a budget surplus after inheriting a structural budget deficit in 2016.
  • achieving record student applications for four straight years, and increasing overall enrollment by nearly 7%, resulting in the College receiving recognition for excellence in student recruiting.
  • leading the development and implementation of the 'MassArt at 150' strategic plan, envisioning the College's future as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2023.
  • making significant investments in student support services, including programs for first-generation students, neuro-diverse students, and health and wellness programs.

"Catawba is a vibrant learning community that prepares students for meaningful life and work," says Dr. Nelson. "While the next few years may look different than any of us would have imagined just a matter of weeks ago, I am confident that the extraordinary people at Catawba along with the Salisbury/Rowan community will meet the extraordinary challenges ahead of us with energy, creativity, and resolve. I am eager to join in that work."

Prior to his tenure at MassArt, Dr. Nelson served as Provost and Chief Academic Officer at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) in Winston Salem, NC for six years. Nelson served as Dean of the Faculty and Senior Vice President of Academic Administration at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary & The College at Southeastern in Wake Forest, NC for four years, after serving as a faculty member since 1998.

A first-generation college student, Dr. Nelson received his Ph.D. in Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Master of Music and Bachelor of Music from Hardin-Simmons University. Throughout his administrative career, he has remained active in the classroom, teaching courses in religious studies, philosophy, and music.

Dr. Nelson is married to Kimberly Nelson, and his three children and two grandchildren reside in North Carolina and Texas. Dr. and Ms. Nelson look forward to re-locating to Salisbury this summer.

"With over 100 qualified applicants and nominees, the College's 21-member search committee was charged with recommending the right executive leader to move Catawba forward. We have found this leader in Dr. David Nelson," said Bob Arnold '71, chair of the presidential search committee and vice chair of the Catawba College Board of Trustees, and Mark Alexander '81, vice chair of the presidential search committee and a member of the board of trustees, in a joint statement.

"We are also grateful for the service of each search committee member and for our consulting firm partners, Dr. Jim Sirianni and Mark Halligan from Storbeck Search & Associates, during this six-month process. We do not think we could have ended with a better process or result," Arnold and Alexander concluded.

Information on community forums to introduce Dr. Nelson to faculty, staff, students, and the Salisbury and greater Catawba community will be announced at a later date.

To assist with the presidential transition to Dr. Nelson this summer, Dr. Kenneth W. Clapp '70, Catawba College's senior vice president and chaplain, will serve as interim president beginning on April 17, 2020.

A Special Message to the Catawba Community from Dr. David P. Nelson


For media requests at Catawba College, please contact Dr. Jared R. Tice, senior vice president for the college experience and dean of students, at jrtice18@catawba.edu.

Meet Catawba's 24th President

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