Lyon College’s leader Dr. Joseph “Joey” King resigned after making controversial comments about Arkansas to a national publication of higher education. A letter from chairman Perry L. Wilson issued Thursday evening after the Lyon College board of trustees meeting reads:
“I’m writing to let you know that the Lyon College Board of Trustees has accepted President W. Joseph King’s resignation effective immediately. We are thankful for Dr. King’s service and guidance during his presidency. The College has established numerous programs and initiatives that have flourished under his leadership including the College’s ROTC program and military science concentration. We are also grateful for Dr. King’s leadership in keeping our campus and our students safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are especially grateful for his leadership in establishing our ongoing exploration of a strategic partnership with the University of the Ozarks.
I am pleased to announce that Provost Melissa Taverner will serve as interim president. As so many of you know, she is passionate about the College’s mission and is ready to continue our most important work, which is providing an excellent liberal arts education to our students to prepare them for their futures.
This is an extraordinary time for Lyon College and the Batesville community. We have experienced a multitude of challenges, and I want to acknowledge and thank everyone – students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members – for their efforts. I also want to express my deep appreciation to this dedicated community for its support of our College. It is a blessing we have had for nearly 150 years.“
Former faculty members first brought the statements to our attention in a letter to the editor delivered to the newspaper office Friday afternoon. Although our Saturday edition had already gone to the printer, the letter is on A4 of our Tuesday edition.
Word (good or bad) gets around quick in a small town and by Saturday morning, Lyon College issued a statement, trying to walk back King’s comments.
The statement issued from Lyon College posted Saturday reads:
“Recently I was quoted in a Chronicle of Higher Education article about the threat of political violence on college campuses. Unfortunately, when I shared my time at Emory and Henry College, and Lyon College, the article misquoted me, stating that a large Trump rally was held in Batesville during the election. This did not happen, and my staff and I are working with the article’s author to issue a correction. I apologize for this error.”
A correction to the article this week clarified that the rallies for former President Donald Trump were held in the state, but not Batesville-proper.
The Lyon College statement issued Saturday went on to say:
“In addition, I want to address another statement I was quoted for in the article: The Lyon Community (and I include the City of Batesville in this) is ‘a bubble of inclusion and diversity surrounded by a sea of angry, disenfranchised population and a large white-supremacist population.’ While Lyon and the surrounding Batesville community might be welcoming and inclusive, we cannot pretend to expect the same in all areas of the state.
We value our relationship with the community that we have called home for almost 150 years. Moreover, we will continue to strengthen that relationship, but we will also continue to support and listen to our students from marginalized communities. The safety and welfare of our campus community is always our utmost priority.”
Reactions to the “sorry, not sorry” social media post were swift, but reaction from city and county business leaders was firm and measured.
A letter was delivered to the members of the Lyon College board of trustees meeting demanding King resign. It was signed by Crystal England Johnson of the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Rick Elumbaugh, Mayor of Batesville, and Independence County Judge Robert Griffin.