Dr. Larry Eugene Rivers
Dr. Larry E. Rivers returned to his alma mater as the eighth president of Fort Valley State University in the Middle Georgia community of Fort Valley four and a half years ago. The community was a place known more for its peaches and pecans than its historically black state university. The former Florida A & M University administrator and history professor tackled several challenges: A budget deficit, a decreasing student enrollment, an insufficient endowment and low staff morale.
The task of turning the university around involved no small feat. But only after a few years, under the leadership of Dr. Rivers, FVSU is thriving. The dynamic turnaround prompted the state’s premier business publication, Georgia Trend, to recognize the major accomplishments made so quickly during the new president’s tenure in office. In January 2008, the magazine named Rivers among the “100 Most Influential Georgians.” FVSU was also listed in among the “Best Places to Work in Georgia” in the monthly publications later that year.
Fast forward to 2010. Fort Valley State’s growth was steady as Rivers began executing his plan to make his school a competitive force in higher education. The HBCU’s development could be characterized as explosive. The most significant changes were apparent in the areas of enrollment and the number of new construction projects completed. Enrollment reached an all-time high. Georgia Trend featured Dr. Rivers in its “Georgia’s Top 25 Leaders” September 2010 issue. The magazine praised Dr. Rivers’ outstanding leadership for the university’s exceptional growth and commented on his commitment to diversify the university.
Dr. Rivers and his administration have launched many capital project initiatives including the construction of a $16.8 million Academic, Science and Classroom Building; a $9 million Wildcat Stadium; a $6 million Student Amenities Building; the renovations of Huntington and Ohio halls, and a State Animal Facility for Emergencies (SAFE) Center.
City officials in Fort Valley are preparing for the growth that the town of 8,600 residents will experience in the coming years. The town’s existing infrastructure will be expanded to accommodate the demand for utilities and sewer services. “We cannot stand still. The university is growing and spreading out on us,” said Fort Valley Mayor John Stumbo during a joint meeting with FVSU administrators and city planners.
If the recently released college rankings indicate the progress and overall quality of universities in the country, then FVSU is on a roll. In previous years, FVSU was unranked by U.S. News Media group, but for four years in a row, the university made the list of “America’s Best Black Colleges." Thanks to President Rivers' energized leadership, the 2013 U.S. News and World Report recognized FVSU as the top public historically black college and university in Georgia. President Rivers credits energized leadership and a major reorganization for the institution’s transformation. “Just the fact that we’ve reached the top tier for two consecutive years is an accomplishment in itself,” Rivers said. We have a unique mission at FVSU. We’re proud of this, but we won’t rest on our laurels. We’ll always seek to improve our overall quality and ranking.”
Below is a snapshot of Dr. Rivers’ educational background:
Born in the Philadelphia suburb of Sharon Hill, he graduated from Fort Valley State College (now University) with a Bachelor of Science degree in social science education before pursuing a master’s degree in history at Villanova University. Carnegie-Mellon University awarded him a doctor of arts degree in history and curriculum development in 1977, and Goldsmith’s College of the University of London added a doctor of philosophy in history degree in 2002.
For more than twenty years, the history scholar taught history at Florida A & M University, ultimately receiving the rank of “distinguished university professor,” one of only two on campus. Meanwhile he held a series of administrative appointments leading to the selection in 2002 as dean of the FAMU College of Arts and Sciences.
Dr. Rivers’ Slavery In Florida, Territorial Days to Emancipation, published in 2000, garnered three national awards. He subsequently co-authored two additional volumes – Laborers in the Vineyard of the Lord: The Beginnings of the AME Church in Florida and For a Great and Grand Purpose: The Beginnings of the AMEZ Church in Florida – that have received scholarly acclaim. He also co-edited the well-received The Varieties of Women’s Experiences: Portraits of Southern Women in the Post-Civil War Century. Most recently, in summer 2012 the University of Illinois Press released his benchmark study Rebels and Runaways: Slave Resistance in Florida. It already has been honored by the Florida Historical Society and, with a Florida Book Award, by the state of Florida.
Teaching, research, publications, and community service earned the scholar numerous citations for excellence. Ebony magazine featured Dr. Rivers as one of America’s future black leaders. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the Fort Valley State University National Alumni Association, Inc., the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Sigma Pi Phi (The Grand Boule) Fraternity, the Urban League and Prince Hall Masonic Lodge.
The father of sons Larry Omar and Linje Eugene, Rivers is married to the former Betty Hubbard.