Rod Paige, interim Jackson State University president and former U.S. Secretary of Education. Credit: Jackson State

Dr. Rod Paige, the former U.S. Secretary of Education, will take over as interim president of his alma mater, Jackson State University, on Nov. 7.

The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning made the announcement Tuesday morning.

“I am a Jacksonian and I am interested in JSU being the greatest it can be,” said Paige, who participated in the meeting via teleconference.

Dr. Evelyn J. Leggette, provost and senior vice president of Academic and Student Affairs at JSU, will serve as acting president until Paige takes the reins.

“On behalf of the senior leadership, alumni, faculty, staff and students we welcome our outstanding alumnus Roderick Paige back to his ‘dear old college home,’ and we look forward to working with him in his role as interim president of Jackson State University,” Dr. Leggette said through a news release.

Paige earned a bachelor’s degree from JSU and succeeds Dr. Carolyn W. Meyers, who resigned last week. In 2001, President George W. Bush tapped Paige as education secretary, making Paige the first African American to hold the post. In that role, he oversaw and helped implement the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind Act.

Paige is a Monticello, Miss., native and Navy veteran who coached the Jackson State football team in the 1960s. Paige also served  as superintendent of the Houston (Texas) Independent School District in the mid-1990s.

The search process for the next president will take an estimated five to seven months, said IHL Commissioner Dr. Glenn Boyce.

“We will do this with expediency, but not so fast that we do not get good candidates,” Boyce said.

Boyce also stated that university students, faculty and alumni would form a campus search committee that will conduct listening sessions on and off campus as well as online.

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Ashley F. G. Norwood, a native of Jackson, earned a bachelor's degree in English from Jackson State University and a master’s degree from the Meek School of Journalism at the University of Mississippi. Norwood, who specializes in multimedia journalism, has been recognized nationally for her documentary film the fly in the buttermilk, which covers the history, perceptions and principles of black Greek-lettered organizations at the University of Mississippi.