Photo: Former Lock Haven University president, Dr. Craig Willis (1982-2004).
*WRITTEN AND SUBMITTED BY STUDENT WRITERS FROM THE EAGLE EYE (VOL. 96, ISSUE 2).
Dr. Craig Willis served as the president of Lock Haven University from July 24, 1982 through July 31, 2004. During his 22-year tenure, Willis led Lock Haven University and its Bald Eagles to new heights. He is extremely proud of the "sense of positivism” that he believes permeated the atmosphere during that time.
While Willis served, he nearly doubled student enrollment. He expanded campus size and allowed the city of Lock Haven to be more connected with the university. He also created more educational possibilities by establishing 20 new undergraduate programs and 4 new graduate programs. In addition, Willis was one of the founders of Lock Haven University’s Clearfield Branch.
Alongside the new students Willis drew to Lock Haven, he also enlarged the school’s budget from $15 million to almost $60 million. Due to the increased budget, student enrollment, and community involvement, Willis found new and more efficient ways to keep the campus thriving. He sought out ways to lower expenses while simultaneously heightening the quality of the campus. One way in which Willis achieved this was through decentralized heating, which became a significant money-saver over time.
He served an impressive 22-year tenure as the president of LHU before he retired with President Emeritus status. According to Willis, his greatest accomplishments during his tenure were the new graduate programs, the new PA program, and the expansion of the international program.
In 2013, the Lock Haven University Council of Trustees honored Willis by renaming the Health Professions Building the Willis Health Professions Center.
What led Willis to his position as President of Lock Haven University were his previous educational and career experiences, as well as the relationships he had created with others. Willis attended Ohio Western University, located in Delaware, Ohio, and later received his master’s degree and doctorate from Ohio State University. While he was in the pool of candidates for the presidential position at Lock Haven, he was the provost at Concord College, now named Concord University, located in West Virginia. Since his retirement, Willis has served two interim presidencies, one at Eastern Michigan University and one at Kansas Wesleyan University.
One of the biggest personal motivators for Willis to accept the position with Lock Haven was the beautiful Susquehanna River and the overall atmosphere in the area.
"I came to look at it and liked it,” he said. “At the time, the President's yard ran right down to the river, and we had a boat out there. It was lovely in so many ways.”
Willis remains involved with the Lock Haven community even after his retirement, currently serving on the board of the Great Island Presbyterian Church. He continues to enjoy hobbies such as reading, spending time in the LHU community, and going out with his wife. Willis remains involved with LHU through his interests, community connections, and support of Lock Haven students through the Lock Haven University Foundation.
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