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. Rick Kurtz

6th President
2015–2018


Rick Kurtz

Dr. Rick Kurtz became the sixth president of Shawnee State on July 1, 2015 after serving as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan and Associate Dean in the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

He earned his Ph.D. in Political Science at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado; a Master of Arts in Public Administration at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, Alaska. Prior to his career in higher education, he served various roles in federal government services providing expertise in policy analysis, program budgeting and implementation, community outreach, and interagency cooperative planning and partnerships for organizations including the USDA Agriculture Research Service, National Park Service in Anchorage, Alaska, and the U.S. Navy-Navy Reserve.


Dr. Rita Rice Morris

5th President
2003–2015


Rita Rice Morris

A native of California, Dr. Morris is the longest-serving president in Shawnee State University history. Her vast experience in higher education includes serving as faculty member, dean, and provost/vice president for academic affairs at institutions like SSU, including Lewis-Clark State College, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Slippery Rock University, and Montana State University Bozeman.

Morris earned a Ph.D. is in communication from the State University of New York at Buffalo (1978), M.A. in speech communication education from Northern Illinois University (1970), and B.A. in speech communication from California State University at Long Beach (1968). She also studied university management at Harvard University and Carnegie Mellon University.

Morris retired at the end of June 2015 after a long and distinguished career in higher education that included leading Shawnee State University through a period of unprecedented growth. She was named President Emeritus by action of the SSU Board of Trustees.


Dr. Michael Fields (Interim)

Interim president
2001–2003


Dr. James Chapman

4th President
1998–2001

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. 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. 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

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.

President’s Office

Contact Information

Sandy Duduit, Executive Assistant
Shawnee State University
Office of the President
940 Second Street
Portsmouth, OH 45662
(740) 351-3542
sduduit@shawnee.edu

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