LSU made history Thursday by naming University of South Carolina Provost William “Bill” Tate as the first Black president in the school’s history and the first Black to lead a school in the Southeastern Conference.
Black students weren’t even allowed to attend LSU until 1953.
“Quite frankly I didn’t think this day would come that an African-American would become president in the SEC,” Tate said. “Y’all made it possible.
“I’m really excited to be part of this community. For me this is all about how we can help students regardless of their background … and give them opportunity to live their dream.”
He is set to begin the job on July 2. Contract negotiations will begin immediately.
Tate will take over for interim President Tom Galligan during a time when LSU is embroiled in a scandal over its systemic mishandling of sexual harassment and violence complaints uncovered by a USA Today investigation.
Tate said LSU will be a model for addressing sexual violence and Title IX complaints moving forward.
“If a person is found guilty of (sexual harassment and violence) we need to remove them from campus as soon as possible,” he said.
LSU’s Board of Supervisors made the selection late Thursday after in-person interviews with three finalists — Tate; Kelvin Droegemeier, former director of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and Jim Henderson, president of University of Louisiana System.
It was a unanimous 15-0 vote.
“We worked very hard for a very long time to select a great leader for LSU,” LSU Board Chairman Robert Dampf said. “It’s a pivotal time for our university, but we’re doing great things.”
Ironically, Dampf met Tate last year at the Governor’s Mansion while Tate was attending the LSU-South Carolina football game last year. Tate was also a member of a dinner party being hosted by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Dampf says he told board member James Williams at the time: “We need to get this guy.” Tate said he was unaware of the impression he made on Dampf.
Tate, 56, is provost and executive vice president of academic affairs at the University of South Carolina and holds the USC Education Foundation Distinguished Professorship with appointments in sociology and family and preventive medicine.
Prior to joining USC, he served as dean and vice provost for graduate education at Washington University in St. Louis, where he held the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professorship in Arts & Sciences. Before that, he held the William and Betty Adams Chair at Texas Christian University and served on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
The finalists were selected from a field of eight candidates interviewed virtually last week by the LSU Presidential Search Committee, which had accepted 23 applications for the job.
All three finalists had been visiting campuses and meeting with stakeholders throughout the week.