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11/1/2016 - Jackson, Miss.

Rod Paige has dedicated his life to breaking through barriers and providing opportunities for young people to succeed. When Paige began school in segregated Mississippi, few would have imagined a future as a national leader in education for him. But that is exactly what the Monticello native has achieved.

Jackson State University played an important role in his story and now he has come home to serve the institution that opened the door to many opportunities that followed. The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning named Dr. Rod Paige as the Interim President of Jackson State University at its meeting held today in Jackson.

“We are so pleased that Dr. Paige is going to serve as Interim president,” said Dr. Doug Rouse, President of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning. “An alumnus of the university, we know he will lead with a servant’s heart and guide the university well through this transitional phase. He has a wealth of experience on all levels of education and we are very fortunate that he is going to share his time and considerable talents with us.”

A national leader in education, Dr. Paige has experience on all levels of education and is recognized for his staunch advocacy of student achievement and his innovative approaches to closing the achievement gap.

“I am deeply honored and profoundly grateful to the trustees of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning and the Jackson State University family for providing me the opportunity to serve this great institution in this important capacity,” said Dr. Paige. “My life has been immensely enriched by Jackson State University, and I genuinely appreciate the opportunity to join the efforts of Jackson State’s many admirers in enhancing the possibility of others receiving the benefits of a great post-secondary education.”

Serving on the Thomas B. Fordham’s Institute’s Board of Trustees since 2005, Dr. Paige was inducted into the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Hall of Fame earlier this year. With co-author Dr. Elaine Witty, Dr. Paige published “The Black-White Achievement Gap: Why Closing It Is the Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time” in 2010.

In addition to graduating from Jackson State, Dr. Paige served as head coach for the university, coaching the Tigers on an historic day for college football and Mississippi. On October 21, 1967, Coach Paige and the Jackson State Tigers, in a matchup against Coach Eddie Robinson and the Grambling Tigers, broke the color barrier at Veterans Memorial Stadium, becoming the first historically black universities to play a game in the stadium, which is now the home stadium for Jackson State University.

Dr. Paige continues to stay engaged with his alma mater. Dr. Paige and his wife, Stephanie Nellons-Paige, vice president for USA Funds’ National Engagement, recently served as honorary chairs of the Jackson State University National Alumni Association’s biennial Black Tie Scholarship and Recognition Gala.

For 10 years, Dr. Paige served as the Dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University, a comprehensive metropolitan historically black university in Houston that serves more than 9,000 students. While at Texas Southern, Dr. Paige established the university’s Center for Excellence in Urban Education, a research facility that concentrates on issues related to instruction and management in urban school systems.

“We are pleased to welcome Dr. Roderick Paige, a distinguished alum, as Interim President of Jackson State University,” said Dr. Evelyn J. Leggette Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs at Jackson State University. “Jackson State University, has a long distinguished history of providing the best education possible to an excellent student body, with a world class faculty and staff, and more than 40,000 alums serving in various positions on the local, state, regional, national and international levels.

“I look forward to working with Dr. Paige as we continue to prepare students to become global leaders through our more than 90 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs; develop more innovative degree and non-degree offerings throughout our six campuses; offer a variety of student engagement and living and learning programs and enhance and build on the success of the university in teaching, research and service.”

During his time at Texas Southern, Dr. Paige was elected to serve as a trustee and officer of the Board of Education of the Houston Independent School District. In 1994, he left TSU to become superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, which was the nation’s seventh largest school district at the time. Lauded for his innovative approach, Dr. Paige was named National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators in 2001.

He was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as the 7th U.S. Secretary of Education. During his tenure in this role from 2001-2005, the historic No Child Left Behind Act was passed and the Department of Education was reformed. Upon taking office, Dr. Paige learned of wide-scale criminal fraud, waste and abuse within the Department and made improving management one of his priorities, creating the Blueprint for Management Excellence to streamline operations and provide strategic direction, resources and focus for the agency.

“Dr. Paige has considerable experience managing large, complex organizations and will bring these skills to bear for the benefit of Jackson State, his alma mater,” said Dr. Glenn Boyce, Commissioner of Higher Education. “His story is a shining example of what Jackson State means to its students and can do for its students. He will focus on ensuring the students receive an excellent education that will launch them into successful lives and careers.”

Following Dr. Paige’s service as U.S. Secretary of Education, he was named a Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He serves on the boards of the Strake Foundation and the Blue Cure Foundation. He has served on the boards of the Broad Foundation, the New England College of Finance and Business and the News Corporation. He also served on the National Council of Economic Education’s Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce.In addition to a bachelor’s degree from Jackson State, Dr. Paige holds a master’s degree and doctoral degree from Indiana University.

Dr. Paige begins serving as Interim President of Jackson State University on November 7, 2016. Dr. Evelyn J. Leggette, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs at Jackson State University, will serve as Acting President until then.

The Board of Trustees will discuss the presidential search at its November meeting.

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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