By Kyeland Jackson —
Dale Billingsley may be an Oklahoma native, but the English professor-turned-acting vice president and provost is a Louisvillian through and through.
Billingsley was named interim vice president and provost by acting president Neville Pinto after former President James Ramsey resigned,.
The English professor has big shoes to fill, mounting oversight for undergraduate, graduate and professional education- encompassing hundreds of degrees and programs. He is also tasked with overseeing the 21st Century Initiative plan, which aims to make U of L a premier metropolitan university by 2020. Billingsley brings experience to the position with almost 40 years of work at the university.
The Oklahoman moved to Louisville in 1978, starting his teaching career for U of L’s English department. Billingsley calls his first four years the “coolest teaching experience” he’s ever had, starting as the youngest with no formal training.
“So I was there with four senior people who listened to every word that I said in lecture,” Billingsley said
“And if I said something stupid or demeaning, or anything like that, I had four grownups come to my office one at a time and tell me that I should never do that again – ever.”
The teacher found his stride exploring administrative positions like associate provost for undergraduate affairs and Faculty Senate chairman. Pinto cited Billingsley’s experience as a key factor in naming second-in-command.
“Dr. Billingsley is intimately familiar with the workings of the university and the provost’s office,” Pinto’s statement said.
“His experience and knowledge of the university and his background and history will enable him to continue the momentum in the implementation of the 21st Century University Initiative: Powering the 2020 Plan, as well as the other facets of the provost’s position.”
Since the promotion, Billingsley said he’s received more than 300 calls and notes of support from around campus. But he dislikes what the role will mean for his professorship.
“The worst part of going into a full-time administrative job like this is not being able to see students every day the way that I have for years,” Billingsley said. “That’s where I get my energy and that’s where my time and attention have gone.”
Billingsley’s teaching career contrasts with U of L’s Board of Trustees, who have generally lacked teaching backgrounds. U of L student Ashley Sink said an educational background helps administrators.
“It helps them because they’re already interacting with students and they have that role face to face,” Sink said.
Billingsley said administrators’ role is to ease the burden of those doing critical work.
“That’s what administrators are supposed to do is to make things better for the people who are doing the critical work. And those are the folks who are doing the teaching, research and service,” Billingsley said.
“The rest of the administration is just to provide the context in which those important things, that teaching, research and service, can go on. Sometimes people forget that, but I try not to.”
Searches for permanent replacements are ongoing. Despite 21 years on the provost’s senior staff, it’s evident Billingsley plans to teach into retirement.
“I didn’t come into the business to be an administrator,” Billingsley said.
“Being a professor is the greatest life there is. You work with good colleagues, you have good students – if you’re lucky – and you get to read and think about the things that are most important to you all through your career. There’s not a lot of jobs that are like that.”
Photo by Kyeland Jackson / The Louisville Cardinal