Dr. Robert O. Davies became the eleventh president of Eastern Oregon University on July 1, 2009. Davies, who was raised in the West, considers this appointment to be the completion of a circle after his career took him from Nevada to Boise, Idaho, New York and Pennsylvania.
Since arriving at EOU, Davies, the son of an historian, has looked to the University’s past to guide its future. This retrospective lead to a resurgence for EOU. Like Davies, the University has returned to its roots and is focusing on an aggressive agenda of service and engagement to the region by providing affordable educational opportunities and an overt commitment to access—serving students where they are — through technology leveraged means and an extensive physical distribution of educational opportunities.
During this time, EOU has seen record enrollments; a significant increase in student retention; expanded partnerships with community colleges leading to historic gains in transfers; remarkable numbers of graduates and increased graduation rates; unparallel growth in private contributions; an expanded level of state-wide support from legislators and leaders; and increased student satisfaction levels.
Currently, EOU is preparing a comprehensive master plan that will provide the physical infrastructure to meet the dynamics for college students of the future. Davies is also engaged in creating the “Eastern Promise” which is an unprecedented approached to integrating the efforts of the K-12 school system, community colleges and EOU to create a seamless pipeline for students from the fifth grade all the way to completion of a bachelor’s degree. Davies is the first to admit that while these accomplishments have occurred over the past several years since his arrival, it js the result of a total team commitment that brought them to fruition.
“We have had many challenges come our way since 2009. We as a community of scholars, of concerned and committed citizens, worked together to face these challenges and not just overcome them; but to put forth an effort to see that we were successful in serving our students and, in turn, ensuring their own success,” Davies is quoted in an article published in a local newspaper prior to beginning his third year as EOU’s president. “The commitment of our faculty and staff to access, affordability and engagement with the community—the pillars of Eastern—is what enabled us to have these numerous successes. That effort, based in our unequivocal commitment to Eastern Oregon University and our students, is our defining trait.”
Davies’ career in higher education started at the University of Nevada, Reno where he served as the director of annual giving. He was then named executive director of the Boise State University Alumni Association and later moved to the University at Buffalo where he became the associate vice president for Advancement. Prior to his appointment to the EOU presidency, he was the vice president of University Relations and executive director of the foundation at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
While never serving in the traditional role of a faculty member, Davies has always been a student of higher education and leadership.
“I am a university brat,” Davies said. “My father, grandfather and grandmother, uncle and aunt were all in education. While I was growing up I watched my dad’s career move from a faculty member, dean and later provost and he also served two years as an interim university president. I was surrounded by discussions of the tenure and promotion process, the travails of academic freedom and the importance of a core liberal arts program in supporting professional programs. It was our dinner conversation.”
Davies’ dissertation, “The New University President: How Non-Traditional Presidents Construct Their Presidencies” is dedicated in the honor of his father and grandfather. This study and continued research in leadership guides him in his current role, while his previous work experiences have proven to be invaluable in developing and strengthening community and legislative relationships, strategic planning and enhancing communication and university connections.
Davies earned his Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University at Buffalo (SUNY) and his MBA from the University of Oregon. His bachelor’s degree in business is from the University of Nevada, Reno.
Davies and his wife Cindy have a charming daughter named Katie. Since moving back West they now have two horses, Sadie and Paint, that keep Katie very busy!