NEW CASTLE – Wilmington University has announced that Executive Vice President LaVerne Harmon was unanimously approved by its Board of Trustees as the successor to current President Jack Varsalona. Varsalona recently announced his retirement, effective June 30, 2017.
Harmon will be the first African-American woman to be named the president of a university in the state of Delaware. She began working at Wilmington University in 1989 and held numerous positions while earning undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wilmington University and a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration from the University of Pennsylvania. She has played key roles in the university’s internal operations, strategic planning and growth since becoming executive vice president in 2014.
“Dr. Harmon has always shown great determination in all she has done and accomplished,” said the Joseph J. Farnan, Jr., chairman of the Wilmington University Board of Trustees. “Her service and capabilities have steadily prepared her to be the next president of this university. The board’s unanimous approval of her reflects complete confidence in the wealth of experience and extraordinary skills she brings to the office of the president, the board and the University community. We look forward to her successful tenure.”
Harmon is a member of the United Way of Delaware Board of Directors and chairs its Women’s Leadership Council. As a member of the International Women’s Forum, she helped establish the Delaware American Council on Education Women’s Network. Her numerous awards include the American Council on Education Leadership Award, the National Association of University Women Community Service Award, the Markevic A. Johnson Scholarship Foundation Woman of Distinction Award and the Phi Delta Kappa Educator of the Year Award.
“I’m grateful for the board’s confidence and trust in me to lead the university into the next chapter of its history,” Harmon said. “It will be my privilege to work collaboratively with our talented staff and faculty to provide educational opportunities and ensure personal growth for students.”
Harmon will succeed Varsalona, who started at the University in 1987 as executive vice president and provost then assumed the presidency in 2005.
Varsalona was a founder of the Delaware Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. and has served on the board or has been involved with numerous nonprofits, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware, the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation, and Goodwill Industries of Delaware and Delaware County. He has received many awards as well as a senatorial tribute in 2015 from the 145th Delaware State Assembly and Sen. Harris McDowell for his dedication to providing opportunity through education.
Under Varsalona’s leadership, what was initially Wilmington College expanded its programming and gained university status from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The university’s enrollment has grown to more than 21,500 students. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wilmington University was the nation’s second fastest growing nonprofit university for the 2004-2014 decade.