Georgia college dean, theater historian to lead MSU-Meridian

Contact: Joe Farris

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Harold J. Nichols

Harold J. Nichols

The arts and sciences dean at Georgia Southwestern State University is the new dean of the Meridian Campus of Mississippi State University.

Harold J. Nichols assumes leadership of the MSU-Meridian regional campus in July, pending formal approval by the Board of Trustees, State Institutions of Higher Learning.

Nichols has been dean at the Americus, Ga., school since 1997. Prior to that, he served for four years as dean of the College of Fine Arts and Humanities at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, a regional campus. He also spent nine years as head of the speech department at Kansas State University and was a KSU faculty member 1971-93.

"Dr. Nichols is a widely experienced and highly regarded administrator whose background and qualifications fit very well with the needs and opportunities facing the Meridian Campus, and with a university role in supporting the broader Meridian community," said MSU Interim President J. Charles Lee.

Nichols, who holds a doctorate in theater history, joins MSU-Meridian as work gets under way to restore the historic downtown Grand Opera House, which will be managed by the university as part of the Riley Education and Performing Arts Center.

Nichols has published widely in scholarly journals devoted to theater and has been active in several related professional organizations, including the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, which he helped found in 1986 and later served as president.

He is a member of the Americus Cultural and Theater Authority that oversees operation of the restored Rylander Theater and serves as liaison between the university and the Rylander for programming development.

In Meridian, a planned restoration of the 1891 Grand Opera House and the adjacent 1890 Marks-Rothenberg Building now is in the architectural design stage. Mississippi State is providing leadership for the renewal project, supported by $31 million in funding from city, county, federal, and private sources, including the namesake Riley Foundation of Meridian.

The Riley Center is expected to open in 2005 and will house some MSU-Meridian programs and offer a wide range of conferences and performances.

"Dean Nichols clearly is an innovative leader who can help MSU-Meridian move to a new level of service and accomplishment," said Interim Provost George Verrall. Nichols led the development of both an honors program and an interdisciplinary Community of Learning program at Georgia Southwestern, as well as a program in which university faculty teach college courses in area high schools for early admission students.

MSU-Meridian had an enrollment of 730 in the 2001 fall semester, including a high proportion of non-traditional students from surrounding counties in Mississippi and Alabama. Upper-division programs are offered in arts and sciences, business, and education, along with graduate programs in business and education.

Nichols succeeds Bev. Norment, who now works full time coordinating the Riley Center project. Dennis Mitchell, chair of the arts and sciences division at MSU-Meridian, serves as interim dean.

Tue, 06/11/2002 - 05:00