Cecil Staton

American Educator
Thirty years experience as a publisher, faculty member, university administrator, state senator, university system vice chancellor, university president and chancellor, association president, and entrepreneur.

Cecil Staton is an american Educator , entrepreneur, and public servant, making a difference in complex organizations.

Dr. Cecil P. Staton has enjoyed a 30 plus year career as a publisher, faculty member, university administrator, state senator, university system vice chancellor, university president and chancellor, and entrepreneur. He has been recognized for his integrity, commitment to servant leadership, and his ability to make a positive difference in complex organizations. Recently, Dr. Staton returned to give guidance to Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc. as President and CEO. Staton served as the founding President, CEO, and Publisher for more than thirteen years earlier in his career. He has served on the Board of Directors since its founding in 1990. Smyth & Helwys is known for its Sunday School curriculum resources that support biblical literacy as well as the multi-volume Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary.

Dr. Staton previously served as President and CEO of AAHOA, leading the world’s largest hotel owners association based in Atlanta and Washington, DC, throughout the COVID pandemic. Through best-in-class daily communications, educational offerings reaching more than 70,000 unique users, numerous in person and virtual events, and impactful lobbying at the federal and state levels, Staton guided AAHOA members and their 60,000 owned hotels through their most challenging industry crisis ever.

Earlier, following a national search and nomination by UNC President Margaret Spellings, Staton served as the 11th Chancellor of East Carolina University in North Carolina. At ECU Staton launched the largest capital campaign in the institution’s history as well as the Rural Prosperity Initiative, dedicating the resources of ECU to address healthcare, education, and economic disparities. He provided leadership for more than $400 million dollars in capital improvements across campus during his tenure. Upon stepping down, he was elected Chancellor Emeritus by the ECU Board of Trustees.

Staton served as Interim President of Valdosta State University. He also served the University System of Georgia and its 26 institutions as Vice Chancellor for Extended Education. He was Chief International Officer and responsible for the system-wide priorities of international education, professional education, entrepreneurial education, and military affairs. He worked to connect the resources of USG institutions with Georgia’s evolving workforce needs and led efforts to create the Georgia Film Academy addressing the workforce issues of Georgia’s burgeoning film industry.

Staton served as a Georgia State Senator for ten years, including two terms as Majority Whip. Serving on all major committees, he chaired the sub-committee of Senate Appropriations responsible for Georgia’s $2 billion annual investment in higher education.

Staton served Mercer University as Associate Professor, Associate Provost, and University Publisher from 1991-2003.

An entrepreneur, Staton served as the founding CEO and President of several successful media companies in publishing and broadcasting.

Dr. Staton holds the D.Phil. degree (1988) from the University of Oxford in England, the Th.M. (1985) and M.Div. with Languages (1982) degrees from Southeastern Seminary, and the B.A. (1980) from Furman University. In 2014, Mercer University awarded him the honorary Doctor of Humanities degree.

Staton has received numerous awards including the inaugural Richard Furman Award from Furman University in 2000, and the 2014 Miller-Deal Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Georgia Independent College Association.

Staton is a former faculty member and Associate Provost at Mercer University, Vice Chancellor of the University System of Georgia, Interim President at Valdosta State University, and Chancellor of East Carolina University.
It is an understatement to say that these are challenging times for higher education. Demographic changes, constrained finances, political polarization including fading public confidence, regulation hurdles, the disruptive force of technology, the accelerating pace of change, increasing student debt, intense competition, and even an unexpected pandemic are among the difficult issues we face. Some have described this as a bleak time to be a university leader. It is a challenging time indeed. Yet we must overcome all of these challenges and more because of our mission and the need for its impact. Our work has never been more critical for our society, nation, and world, and that endeavor inspires me.
A great university must develop critical thinkers, problem solvers, and graduates who can work collaboratively with others, all important ingredients for the workforce of the knowledge-based economy. No institution is more critical to economic mobility and societal success.
As a first-generation college student who received a life-changing undergraduate education, paving the way for a journey to the academic heights of doctoral work at the University of Oxford, I understand the power of education to transform lives, families, and communities. Now, more than ever, our world needs university graduates who are globally aware, intellectually curious, and morally grounded, prepared to solve problems and advance knowledge as agents of positive change.

My Journey

My background is diverse including 30 years of experience as a faculty member, university administrator, private business CEO, state elected official, university system senior administrator, and campus CEO. For ten years I served as a Georgia State Senator and the recognized higher education leader in the Georgia General Assembly, chairing the Senate Appropriations Sub- Committee on Higher Education, responsible for the state’s $2 billion annual investment in public and private higher education. I understand the important partnership of higher education with federal, state, community, and business leaders who are interested in research, workforce development, and the cultivation of engaged citizens.

"As education leaders, we must nurture an ecosystem that embraces innovation in instruction, curriculum, scholarship, research, and financial sustainability while always putting students’ interests and the needs of those we serve first. We must carry out scholarship and intellectual endeavors of the highest standards grounded in active learning with a commitment to impact the economy and well-being of our region for the better. We must prepare students to become catalysts for innovation, prepared for the speed of change, and eagerly embracing the challenges of the world awaiting them. And we must fulfill these objectives while supporting staff and faculty, positioning the university as an education pioneer and economic engine, elevating the regional and national prominence of the institution."

Their Thoughts

Kieran Shanahan, Esq.
Cecil Staton served ECU with distinction, dedication and an uncompromising commitment to excellence. His and Catherine's departure was a tremendous loss for our great University. In recognition of his impactful leadership, ECU's Board of Trustees elected Dr. Staton Chancellor Emeritus at our last meeting together, and we reflected upon the lost opportunity of his departure.

Kieran Shanahan, Esq.

Past Chair, Board of Trustees, East Carolina University
John Crawford
During his tenure as Interim President at Valdosta State University, Cecil Staton did a remarkable job of quickly assessing the university’s budget challenges and took informed and decisive action that streamlined operations and resulted in immediate improvement of the university’s fiscal health. In addition, Cecil was able to forge meaningful relationships with key donors and alumni and played a significant role in closing several six-figure and multiple seven-figure gifts as part of the capital campaign.

John Crawford

Principal at Coleman Talley Strategies and former Vice President of Advancement, Valdosta State University