UNC Pembroke Chancellor Emeritus Joseph B. Oxendine has been named interim president of his alma mater Catawba College.
The 48-member board of trustees voted on February 14, and Dr. Oxendine will assume duties at the Salisbury, N.C., campus on March 15. A 1952 Catawba graduate, he was also a member of the board.
“It came as quite a surprise,” Dr. Oxendine said in a February 17 interview. “I did not campaign for the job.”
After consulting with his wife, Adrienne, and son, James, who is a Salisbury resident, UNCP’s former chancellor agreed to take the job.
“The more I thought about it, the more excited I became,” said Dr. Oxendine, who is 80. “The support I have felt from the board, faculty and staff has been tremendous.”
Catawba President W. Craig Turner will remain at the school as its co-leader until May 31. Dr. Oxendine met last week with faculty and staff.
He has remained close to his college. Dr. Oxendine is a member of Catawba’s Sports Hall of Fame and was a three-sport star there. He was also awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science along with the Alumni Award for Distinguished Public Service.
Dr. Oxendine was chancellor at UNCP from 1989-99 after a 30-year career as a faculty member and dean at Temple University. He said he will remain at Catawba until a new president is named.
“I don’t know how long it will be, but it could be as early as September,” he said. “They will be searching for the right person, and that will take some time.”
A private liberal arts college, Catawba has an enrollment of approximately 1,000.
“The college’s goal is to achieve an enrollment of 2,000 within five years,” Dr. Oxendine. “We will begin that process immediately.”
Dr. Oxendine said he plans to be visible on campus.
“I enjoy the interactions with old friends and new ones,” he said. “It feels very good.”
Board Chairman Paul E. Fisher referred to the spring transition period as “a baton hand-off between two college presidents.”
Fisher said Dr. Oxendine is “a team player, a great listener and a good communicator.”
“His (manner) will be soothing to the campus and his wisdom will be a great part of the value that he brings,” Fisher said. “He will be encouraged to make changes even before a new president gets here.”
Catawba will begin immediately to find a new leader. During their executive session, trustees also approved the chair of the new presidential search committee.
Dr. Oxendine is a native of Pembroke. He earned his master's of education degree from Boston University in 1953 and his doctorate of education from Boston University in 1959.
He worked in automobile factories in Detroit, Michigan, played professional baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates Minor League System for three years and served in the U.S. Army in Korea.
Dr. Oxendine authored two books: “American Indian Sports Heritage,” (1988 and 1995), University of Nebraska Press; and “Psychology of Motor Learning,” two editions (1968 and 1984), Prentice-Hall, Incorporated.
One question remained. When the Catawba Indians hosts the Braves of UNCP on the football field October 1, who will Dr. Oxendine be cheering for?
“Possibly, I could sit in the end zone,” he laughed. “I’m going to be a Catawba supporter.”