USA President Finalists Announced

By: Amelia Rose Zimlich | Managing Editor |

Image Source: University of South Alabama

The USA Board of Trustees announced the names of the three finalists for the position of University of South Alabama President on Oct. 7.

Damon Andrew, Jo Bonner and Michael Tidwell are the three finalists. Each candidate will attend an open forum at the Mitchell Center to meet with members of the USA community.

Andrew serves as dean and professor of the College of Education at Florida State University (FSU), which he began in 2018, according to his resume. As dean, the FSU College of Education achieved a ranking of #18 among public universities in the U.S. News & World Report. A South Alabama alum, Andrews earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education in 1998 and a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from USA in 1999. He also earned two master’s degrees in Biomechanics and Sports Management from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. in Sport Management from FSU in 2002 and 2004, respectively.

Among several awards from multiple institutions, Andrew is a recipient of the 2017 University of South Alabama College of Education 50th Anniversary Top 50 Innovators Award, the 2016 University of South Alabama Lisa Bethea Kavanagh Outstanding Young Alumni Award and the 2011 University of South Alabama Distinguished Alumni Award. 

Bonner earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Alabama in 1982 and currently serves as the Chief of Staff for Governor Kay Ivey, a position he began in December 2018. According to his biography, he has served Alabama’s First District in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than a decade. He was first elected to the 108th Congress in November 2002 and was reelected to five additional terms.

Bonner has made an impact on South Alabama’s economy, negotiating several economic development projects, most notably, the Airbus announcement in 2012 of their first U.S. Final Assembly Line being built in Mobile, which resulted in $1 billion being invested in Alabama. He was named in Yellowhammer’s 2021 Power and Influence list and was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 2020.

Tidwell served as the President of the University of Texas at Tyler (UT Tyler) from 2017 to 2021. Under his leadership, the university had several notable highlights in Fall 2020, according to his resume, including:

  • record freshman class enrollment, an increase of 25% over the record year
  • a record enrollment of Hispanic students
  • a record number of African American students in the freshman class

Tidwell also oversaw the merging of UT Tyler with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler.

Before his position at UT Tyler, he was the Dean of the College of Business at Eastern Michigan University from 2012 to 2016. He earned a Bachelor of Science in communication at Ball State University in 1995 and a Master of Arts in communication and a Ph.D. in Organizational Studies from Washington State University in 1997 and 2002, respectively.

South Alabama will hold separate open forums for each candidate at the Mitchell Center and encourages students, faculty and staff to take advantage of these forums and provide feedback to the Board of Trustees. An online feedback survey for each candidate will also be made available. The open forum schedule is as follows:

  • 11 a.m., Oct. 12, USA Mitchell Center – Mr. Jo Bonner
  • 11 a.m., Oct. 15, USA Mitchell Center – Dr. Damon Andrew
  • 11 a.m., Oct. 26, USA Mitchell Center –  Dr. Michael Tidwell

“Our search for the next president of South, which yielded significant interest from a broad array of candidates, demonstrates that our University has an outstanding reputation across the nation,” Jimmy Shumock, Chair pro tempore of the USA Board of Trustees wrote in an email to students, faculty and staff. “The search committee had the difficult task of narrowing an exceptional field of candidates, and on behalf of the entire University of South Alabama community, I thank them for their hard work.”