Peace University president plans for growth
Posted May 28, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Debra Townsley has had an eventful three years as president of William Peace University, the private downtown college transforming itself for the next generation of college students.
Her term began with layoffs aimed at keeping the college afloat in the aftermath of the economic recession. Then, the board of trustees voted to allow men as undergraduates in the college and, within months, they also changed the name of the 150-year-old university to better reflect its baccalaureate and dual-gender status.
In 2012, Townsley welcomed the first men to campus, one third of the college’s second largest incoming class ever. She and the board began to plan new facilities and a master plan for the campus’s future.
In recent weeks, the college put its hat in the ring for the bankrupt Seaboard Station retail center. Townsley says it’s an attempt to bolster the college’s real estate holdings, but neighbors and tenants fear the center’s future with Peace as an owner. They issued a letter May 21 asking Peace to withdraw its bid for the property.
Townsley’s administration has been criticized for its lack of transparency in making big decisions, like the name change and the bid for Seaboard. But she opened up one recent day for Q&A with the Raleigh Public Record. Townsley shared her thoughts on the college’s recent successes, its future plans and, of course, the drama over Seaboard.