Charleston Southern selects Keith Faulkner as 4th president

The Charleston Southern University board of trustees has unanimously approved the appointment of B. Keith Faulkner as CSU’s fourth president. Faulkner, a 1998 Charleston Southern alumnus, will begin in early October 2023.

The selection and announcement followed an extensive nationwide search led by CarterBaldwin — the same executive search firm that landed Dondi Costin at CSU five years prior. Chaired by Jerry Williams, a former trustee board chair, and Judy Hetz, current board chair, the 12-member presidential search committee was comprised of trustees, former trustees, alumni, and employees representing areas such as academics, student success, alumni engagement, and athletics.

Hetz said that the committee’s primary requirement in selecting a candidate was an individual who held a demonstrable history of living the Christian faith as a believer in Jesus Christ as their Savior. According to Hetz, their search for a person with a deep faith was the “undergirding and motivating factor” for their leadership skills.

“We were blessed with many qualified candidates; however, the uniqueness of Keith Faulkner’s combination of receiving his degrees at Christian institutions and working at Christian colleges — first as a professor, and then as a dean at the world’s largest Christian college — equipped him to understand the day-to-day challenges of our faculty and staff,” explained Hetz. “Faulkner is a prime example of the quality of Christian education that Charleston Southern provides students. Graduates leave CSU with the skills needed to pursue successful careers and live lives of integrity as they serve their fellow man, displaying Christ’s love in the workplace, community, and home.”

Faulkner said he cherishes the opportunity to serve his alma mater. “The responsibility of leading is one that I take with great seriousness and humility,” he stated. “I am a good listener, and I am anxious to hear from our alumni about how they believe that we can improve CSU together. Serving a cause and a place that you love is an opportunity like no other, and I commit to work hard every day to expose the light of CSU to any and all who will see it. Due in large part to the exceptional leadership of all who have gone before me and a board of trustees who sincerely believe in our mission, CSU has grown and flourished over the decades since its faithful beginnings. We stand on the shoulders of giants — and their faithfulness and stewardship, along with God’s abiding love, have positioned CSU for even greater heights.”

With 20 years of higher education experience, Faulkner currently serves as president and dean of Appalachian School of Law in Virginia. Prior to this, he served as the dean of Liberty University School of Law and the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business at Campbell University. He also served as interim dean at Campbell University’s Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law. Over his career, he and his teams have launched online programs, developed innovative partnerships with industry, enjoyed success in fundraising, and many other notable accomplishments.

Noting Faulkner’s experience in strengthening every institution in which he has served, Hetz pointed to Faulkner’s time at Liberty where he doubled law school enrollment in five years and achieved a 95 percent bar passage rate.

Prior to Liberty, Faulkner led Campbell University’s Lundy-Fetterman School of Business as dean and professor of business. He served in other roles at Campbell at the law school, including associate dean for external relations, executive associate dean for academic and administrative affairs, vice dean for administration and external relations, and interim dean of the university’s School of Law. Faulkner also taught courses on business ethics and legal and regulatory environment of business as an adjunct and visiting professor of business at Campbell for 11 years.

Before he stepped into the waters of higher education, Faulkner practiced law in the areas of insurance defense, criminal defense, estate planning, family law, and real estate litigation and transactions.

From 1989 to 1997, Faulkner served in the U.S. Navy, where he worked as a nuclear power plant operator and technician. For four of those years, his responsibilities were aboard a fast-attack nuclear powered submarine — the USS Billfish. Already built to be a CSU Buccaneer living on the high seas, his longest stay under water was almost two months.

Faulkner earned his Juris Doctor degree and a Master of Business Administration from Campbell University’s Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law. He also holds an LLM in litigation management from Baylor University School of Law. In 1998, he graduated from Charleston Southern University with a B.S. in business administration-finance emphasis — where he won the Outstanding Business Administration Student Award that same year.

His story did not begin in college, however. Prior to being a first-generation college student, Faulkner was a first-generation high school graduate and entered the U.S. Navy upon graduation. In fact, the Naval Nuclear Power School is what brought him to Charleston and eventually to CSU.

Through the years, Faulkner has been an engaged alumnus. “I have remained a part of the CSU family because I believe in it,” he said. “My service on the board of visitors has been important for me to feel truly involved over the years. While at Campbell, Liberty, and Appalachian, I have actively recruited CSU graduates for law and business programs. I wanted CSU graduates for these programs because I knew they were prepared academically, and I knew they were going to be leaders.”

Faulkner’s obvious interest in leading his alma mater has deep roots from his personal experiences as a nontraditional student and veteran. In a letter to the search committee, Faulkner said, “My service in the U.S. Navy, coupled with my experience at the university, paved the way for me to follow my call of serving others through the practice of law and higher education,” he said. “My professors and the staff at CSU helped me to understand the concept of vocation and answering God’s call. Their care, academic demands, and mentorship laid the groundwork for the Christian, husband, father, and professional that I am today.”

He added, “I was certainly transformed, and I never felt like a number or statistic at CSU. I remain excited about the mission of the university, because it makes an impact on students and graduates by shaping their lives through preparing them to be servant leaders.”

A native of Montgomery County, N.C., Faulkner and his high school sweetheart, Patty, have been married for 30 years. They have three children: Hannah, 21, Erin, 17, and Ryan, 11.

— Jenna Johnson is executive director of Marketing and Communication at Charleston Southern University.