The Bethel University board of trustees voted unanimously to appoint Bethel Interim President Walter Butler as the 40th president of the school during its summer 2014 trustee meeting.
Butler served as interim president since Aug. 1, 2013 after longtime President Robert Prosser retired.
Butler, who holds both a bachelor's degree and an MBA from Bethel, was recently presented an honorary doctor of humane letters by the school's trustees.
President Butler's Bethel career began in 1975 when he started work as an admissions counselor – a position he held for three years until he ran for the office of Carroll County trustee and won.
At 24, Butler was the youngest county-wide official ever elected in Carroll County. He served as Carroll County trustee for 16 years, being re-elected in 1982, 1986 and 1990. In August of 1994, he ran successfully for the Office of Carroll County executive (the office now called Carroll County mayor). Butler served in this capacity until 1996, when Gov. Don Sundquist asked him to become Tennessee's director of state parks. As director, he oversaw 54 parks, 1,600 employees and a budget of more than $57 million. Under his leadership, Tennessee was recognized as one of the top four managed park systems of the 50 states by the Sports Foundation.
Sundquist went on to appoint Butler the deputy commissioner of personnel for Tennessee's 38,000 employees, and then as deputy commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Butler went on to serve as commissioner of personnel, a position he held to the end of Sundquist's term in office.
At this time, Butler returned to Bethel as the director of business affairs. He later held positions at Bethel as executive vice president for the College of Liberal Arts and as vice president for the College of Criminal Justice. After a brief time away from Bethel, Butler returned as director of business affairs until August 2013, when he was appointed interim president.
"I am honored to serve the students, faculty, administration and our vast family of alumni and friends in the role of president of Bethel University," Butler said. "To have the privilege to work for your alma mater is special.
"Bethel University serves a very important role in higher education," he said. "We have students from all over the U.S. and several foreign countries. We literally reach around the world, and we are proud of the impact we make.
"We are also proud of our heritage that dates back to 1842 in McLemoresville, Tenn.," Butler said. "Through the foresightedness and continued support of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Bethel University is on track to help thousands of people with their higher education goals. I am excited to play a small role in that endeavor."