Dr. Bryan Coker named 12th president of Maryville College

Dr. Bryan Coker named 12th president of Maryville College

Feb. 13, 2020

Dr. Bryan Coker, vice president and dean of students at Maryland’s Goucher College, will be the 12th president of Maryville College, it was announced Thursday.

Coker, a native of western North Carolina who holds degrees from Rhodes College, the University of South Carolina and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, addressed the campus community in two separate gatherings in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall and spoke to the public in a late afternoon session.

“I could not be more honored, excited and exceptionally proud to be named the 12th president of Maryville College,” he said. “I am immensely grateful for and sincerely humbled by the confidence and trust that the Search Committee and the Board of Directors has demonstrated in me. And for that vote of confidence, I want to offer a most sincere and heartfelt thank you. To become part of the Maryville College story – a story spanning over 200 years – is such a tremendous honor.”

In her introduction of the president-elect, Dr. Mary Kay Sullivan, Board chairperson and co-chair of the Presidential Search Committee, explained that the College had identified five key areas of needed experience and enthusiasm in the next president:  fundraising and friend-raising; implementing a strategic plan; building reputation, enrollment and innovative programs; supporting and building a sense of community and pride; and celebrating diversity.

“These were the qualities that guided our search,” she said, later explaining that search committee members saw alignment in the College’s needs and desires and Coker’s application materials.

“Our search committee was tremendously impressed by Dr. Coker’s varied and relevant educational background and professional experience; his advocacy for diversity and inclusion; his advocacy for the liberal arts; his track record in student success and cross-campus collaboration; and, as a lifelong Presbyterian, his understanding of our church relatedness and commitment to faith and learning.

“We were excited by his understanding of – and enthusiasm for – the Maryville College of today and tomorrow,” she said. “As Tim [Topham, co-chair of the search committee] and I stated in our memo earlier this week, the Board of Directors is confident that Dr. Bryan Coker is just the person who will build on the successes of President Bogart and take the College boldly into its third century.

“We look forward to the work ahead.” 

College is ‘ready to truly thrive’

In his remarks to the campus community, Coker said he believes the College is well-positioned and “ready to truly thrive,” acknowledging the work of President Tom Bogart, who announced in July that he would depart in June after 10 years at the helm.

“I have watched and studied Maryville, and I know that President Bogart has successfully led this college through some quite turbulent times for higher education, and because of that, we should all be very grateful to President Bogart – I know that I am.”

The president-elect spoke of his appreciation for and commitment to the liberal arts, to faith and learning, to the student experience and community life, and to diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Our world is also becoming more diverse every second—and I see tremendous beauty and richness in that diversity,” he said. “I believe we all learn best when we encounter ideas different from our own ideas, and when that learning occurs in the presence of those with life stories different from our own.

“In higher education, we must acknowledge that our colleges and universities were not originally built and structured for the richly diverse student populations we serve today.”

Coker said he would lead work to “future-proof” the College, using the College’s new strategic plan as a guide and focusing efforts on philanthropy and partnership-building.

“Private institutions must increasingly operate in the public interest,” he said. “I believe the opportunities for Maryville to do so are immense, given this location in a thriving, scenic and opportune region.

“We must embrace and connect with our surrounding communities and the region now, more than ever before, seeking to partner, serve and add value in new, innovative and meaningful ways.”

Coker said he believes Maryville College “deserves an even greater reputation than it currently has” and wants to see its reach expand regionally, nationally and internationally.

But the College’s success depends on the work of more than the top administrator, he concluded.

“A college president is ultimately the guardian of a sacred trust, serving as the steward of all that has come before, and all that is still yet to come,” Coker said. “I will be the President, but I will not be the Presidency. … we are going to accomplish great things in the coming years, but we will accomplish none of it in isolation – we will move forward boldly as a community, united and staying fundamentally true to our liberal arts identity and our mission, to ‘Do good on the largest possible scale.’

“My job is to ensure that this college – this institution which has stood as Noble, Grand, and True for over 200 years – continues to stand and thrive for many generations to come.”

An experienced administrator

Coker holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Rhodes College, a master’s degree in higher education administration from the University of South Carolina, and a Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.  He is a 2018 graduate of the CIC- and AASCU-sponsored Executive Leadership Academy.

Coker is finishing his seventh year at Goucher, a nationally ranked liberal arts college in Baltimore, Md., where he is responsible for a large and diverse portfolio of student affairs areas, including athletics, campus safety, dining services, and a nationally ranked equestrian program.  He led the creation of the school’s Center for Race, Equity, and Identity, and has provided leadership for major capital improvement projects.

He also has assisted Goucher’s president and advancement staff in fundraising for the school’s $100 million Goucher Undaunted capital campaign and helped create innovative partnerships with businesses and organizations in Maryland. During the summer of 2019, he was tapped by Goucher’s Board of Trustees to serve as acting president during a transition period. In that time, he conducted comprehensive reviews of departments and restructured the college’s senior staff.

Prior to Goucher, Coker served as dean of students for Jacksonville (Fla.) University for 10 years and as director of student judicial affairs at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville for four years.

Since January of 2017, Coker has served as an affiliated faculty member in the School of Education and Urban Studies at Morgan State, a historically black public university in Baltimore. He is a peer evaluator for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and has served on accreditation teams for three colleges. A lifelong Presbyterian, he is an ordained elder and liturgist at Towson Presbyterian Church.

Coker is married to Rhodes classmate Sara Barnette Coker. They have four children.

Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”