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Shawnee State Presidents

Since the creation of Shawnee State University in 1986, its leaders have shared a vision of making a college education accessible to students of Appalachia. The result has been continual growth of Shawnee State’s programs, services, and facilities over the years.

Dr. Rita Rice Morris
5th President
2003 – present

 Rita Rice Morris

A native of California, Dr. Morris was appointed as the fifth president of SSU in December 2002, and began her duties in May 2003. Her vast experience in higher education includes serving as faculty member, dean, and provost/vice president for academic affairs at institutions like SSU. Her Ph.D. is in communication from the State University of New York at Buffalo (1978), M.A. is in speech communication education from Northern Illinois University (1970), and B.A. is in speech communication from California State University at Long Beach (1968). She also studied university management at Harvard University and Carnegie Mellon University. More...


Dr. Michael Fields (Interim)
Interim president (2001 – 2003)


Dr. James Chapman
4th President
1998 – 2001

Dr. James Chapman

Dr. Chapman came to Portsmouth from Lexington, KY, where he had previously served as Vice-Chancellor for Public Service and Outreach at the University of Kentucky and Acting President of Lexington Community College.

Chapman earned a Ph.D. in higher education, a master’s in classical languages and literature and a master’s in college student personnel from Indiana University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in classical languages and literature from St. Meinrad College in southern Indiana.


Dr. Clive Veri
3rd President
1989 – 1998

Dr. Clive Veri

Dr. Veri came to Shawnee State University from Lyndon State College in Lyndonville, Vermont where he served as President. An undergraduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, Dr. Veri earned a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska, a master’s degree from the University of Maryland, and a bachelor’s degree from SUNY-Oswego. 

Veri retired at the end of June 1998, after a long and distinguished career in higher education and was named President Emeritus by action of the SSU Board of Trustees.


Dr. Catherine Horr (Interim)
Interim president (February 1989 – June 1989)


Dr. Robert Ewigleben
2nd President
1987 – 1989

Dr. Robert Ewigleben

Dr. Ewigleben came to Shawnee State after a long career at Ferris State College, where he had served as President from 1971-1984.

A Michigan native, Dr. Ewigleben earned a Ph.D in educational administration, a master’s degree in educational administration, and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Michigan State University. He also received an honorary degree from Purdue.


Frank Taylor
1st President
 1986 - 1987

Dr. Frank Taylor

A southern Ohio native and lifelong educator, Frank Taylor was instrumental in establishing the Scioto Technical College in 1971 and serving as its first President. In 1972 Taylor and Dr. Robert Flinchbaugh, director of Ohio University-Portsmouth, began discussions about merging their two institutions. The merger resulted in the establishment of the Shawnee State General and Technical College which became Shawnee State Community College in 1977. 

In 1980, Taylor replaced Flinchbaugh as the Community College’s second president. In 1984, Taylor led a feasibility study about Shawnee State Community College becoming a four-year university, and in 1985 Ohio Speaker of the House Vern Riffe introduced a bill in the Ohio Legislature to create Shawnee State University as Ohio’s 13th public university. On April 2, 1986, Taylor was named Shawnee State University’s first president. In 1987, the SSU Board of Trustees voted to name Frank Taylor President Emeritus of SSU and awarded him an honorary doctoral degree. Taylor retired as SSU's President in June of that year.  Following his death in 2002, a memorial scholarship was established at Shawnee State in Taylor's name.

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