SEARCY, Ark. — Dr. Trisha Yarbrough of Ada has been chosen to succeed Dr. Dennis Organ as executive director of Alpha Chi, the national college honor society, beginning June 1. She was selected by the National Council, Alpha Chi’s governing board, after a seven-month search process that drew 38 applicants.
Yarbrough, who is retiring in May as professor of English and director of the University Honors Program at East Central University, has long experience with Alpha Chi. During her 25-year career at ECU, she served from 1990 to 2011 as sponsor or co-sponsor of the Oklahoma Gamma chapter, which in 2005 won the President’s Cup as the society’s outstanding chapter. From 1996 to 2008 she served as secretary-treasurer of Region II, which also gave her a seat on the National Council.
Yarbrough plans to live in Oklahoma although the national office will continue to be housed on the campus of Harding University in Searcy, Ark. Prior to beginning the hiring search, the National Council determined that the new executive director would have the option of working off site.
Dr. Peggy FitzGerald of Pace University in New York, president of the National Council and chair of the search committee, called Yarbrough “an outstanding and innovative academic who will be an asset to our administrative team.”
Organ, who is retiring after serving as executive director since 1994, said, “I’m glad that my successor is someone who knows Alpha Chi well, including its history and traditions. Trisha will need very little time to orient herself to this job. I know she will infuse the work with fresh energy and ideas, and I’m confident she will lead Alpha Chi to greater stature and success.”
The new executive director brings management and supervisory experience from a two-year term as chair of ECU’s English department and six years as director of the Honors Program. In both positions she managed budgets, evaluated faculty, set goals and conducted assessments annually. She also wrote several successful grants that brought visiting speakers to campus and helped institute a regional studies program.
In her letter of application, Yarbrough noted that her educational background reflects the diversity of Alpha Chi’s member institutions. Her bachelor’s degree is from a small faith-based university, Oklahoma Baptist University, and her master’s and doctoral degrees are from a large, urban, public research university, Arizona State.
While working on her doctorate, she taught full time for a proprietary institution, DeVry Institute, on the Phoenix campus, and this spring she is completing 25 years of teaching at a regional state university in a small town.
Her professional accomplishments include 11 journal articles or published essays, 32 conference presentations, editorial and review work on four projects, and membership in numerous organizations. At ECU she won six teaching awards.
"I am delighted,” Yarbrough said, “to assume leadership of Alpha Chi, a vital, venerable presence on hundreds of university campuses across the nation, with a strong heritage of recognizing and rewarding academic excellence. We face exciting days ahead. Although higher education is changing at a rapid pace, Alpha Chi is wedded to unchanging core values of academic excellence, integrity and character.”
She added, “From my first days as a chapter sponsor over two decades ago through my 12 years on the national council to this new position as executive director, I've consistently seen the value that Alpha Chi brings both to individual students and to campuses with active chapters.”
Yarbrough will be the society’s third executive director. Organ’s retirement concludes an unbroken career of service with Alpha Chi that began in 1975 when he was appointed editor of publications and worked closely with the late Dr. Joseph E. Pryor, long-time secretary-treasurer of the National Council, a position that administered the day-to-day work of Alpha Chi before the society established a professional office. Pryor was academic vice president at Harding and Organ was professor of English. After Pryor retired from Harding and became Alpha Chi’s first executive director, Organ eventually became assistant executive director and in 1994 executive director.
Organ’s position with Alpha Chi was a half-time appointment that he combined with his work as chair of the English Department and later dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. He retired from Harding in 2011.
Yarbrough said, “I am mindful of the heritage of successful leadership in Alpha Chi as I step into this post, and I look forward to working with the National Council and the national office staff as we plan for the future."