Change is difficult. Even changes for the better can be clad in pangs of hesitance and insecurity. Despite our proclivity for clinging to the known, change is an inevitable part of life. This is true not just in the lives of individuals, but also in the lives of institutions.

Change is difficult. Even changes for the better can be clad in pangs of hesitance and insecurity. Despite our proclivity for clinging to the known, change is an inevitable part of life. This is true not just in the lives of individuals, but also in the lives of institutions.

Such is the case as the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff moves away from the era of Lawrence A. Davis Jr. as chancellor, a position he held for more than 20 years. To ease the period of transition, a former state legislator, Calvin Johnson, has been named as interim chancellor.

Speaking at a convocation to welcome Johnson, University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt introduced Johnson as “the right person at the right time to lead UAPB in this transition period.”

As reported in the Commercial, Johnson said he’s prepared to do his “best” in his new role, and if that’s not enough to “get the job done,” then “I’m prepared to do what is required.” He said he wants UAPB to “be aggressive with new ideas and opportunities” under his leadership.

The entire university community should regard Johnson’s ascension as an opportunity both to inaugurate new leadership and a new operational culture for the school. As has been well-documented, the university has faced a number of substantial legal and financial challenges over the last few years. It will take someone with keen vision, incisive analytical skill and strong powers of decision to correct the deficits that continue to dog the institution. Johnson’s work in the legislature and throughout his career suggest that he is up to the task.

We are heartened by the tenor of his remarks at the convocation. They suggest he is in touch with the school’s needs. As Johnson himself indicated, his personal story is something of a metaphor for the university. “I’ve come a long way,” said Johnson. “It’s a long way from Jerome to the chancellorship at UAPB.”

Jerome — Johnson’s Drew County birthplace — boasts a population of 39 residents according to the 2010 Census.

As it says in Luke 17:6, “And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.”

Johnson has inherited command of a resource far greater than a mustard seed. He is charged with leading a large, fully modern, academic bureaucracy. The seed Johnson must now cultivate is more akin to an onion and mustard. It is a seed with many layers, many goals, many agendas — both personal and private — covered in the overarching mandate to educate the people of Arkansas.

But as above, Johnson will face challenges. Like all large bureaucracies, UAPB has areas that it can be proud of and areas that need correcting. Johnson’s task will be to sort between those things that make the university great and those that impede its progress.

To accomplish this, he will blaze new paths to glory yet unseen. He will not be able to do this alone. He will need the support, indulgence and patience of both the university community and of Pine Bluff as a whole. We are confident that Johnson can help the venerable institution turn this important corner and we wish him Godspeed and good luck.