E. L. Angell (1961 – 1969)
Angell served as the first executive director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (formerly the Commission on Coordination of Higher Educational Finance). The primary responsibility of the Commission was to determine the financial needs of the institutions of higher education and to make these recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly.
Dr. Olin Cook (1969 – 1979)
Cook served in the field of education for 36 years. After completing a Doctor of Education degree at Auburn University in 1963, he began his career as a teacher of mathematics at Avondale High School in Decatur, Ga. He later served as the director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education for 10 years before going to Arkansas Technical University in Russellville, first as the executive vice president and later as the vice president for Academic Affairs. He served seven years in the Arkansas House of Representatives and was Chairperson of the House Education Committee for four years.
Dr. T. Michael Elliott (1979 – 1982)
Elliott was born in Evansville, Indiana, and attended Indiana University from 1962-70, earning bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Upon completing his doctoral studies in 1970, he was appointed director of system development for the regional campus systems of Purdue University. In 1972, Elliott became assistant to the president at Purdue, and in 1973, he was appointed assistant provost of Purdue University and was named associated professor of higher education administration. From 1975 to 1977, he served as executive director of the National Commission on United Methodist Higher Education. Elliott returned to public sector higher education as deputy commissioner of higher education for the State of Missouri in 1977. In 1979, he accepted appointment as executive director of the State Board of Higher Education in the State of Arkansas.
Dr. Gary Chamberlain (1983 – 1985)
Chamberlin served as the first professor and founder of the higher education program at University of Arkansas – Little Rock. He previously served as Director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and served as Executive Vice President and Provost as well as Interim President of the University of Arkansas System before his tenure at UA Little Rock.
Dr. Paul Marion (1985 – 1990)
Marion's early career included administrative positions at California State University at Fresno, the World Campus Afloat (now Semester at Sea), the University of Colorado at Boulder, and North Carolina State University before becoming Associate Vice President of the University of North Carolina system. After serving as Director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, Dr. Marion was Chancellor of the State College System of West Virginia, President of the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Universities, President of Franklin College of Indiana, and President of Tiffin University in Ohio. He earned a BA from Davidson College, a MA from California State University at Fresno, and a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. Dr. Marion also taught undergraduate and graduate courses, published articles in academic journals, made presentations at academic conferences and served on many state and national boards and commissions.
Dr. Diane Gilliland (1990 – 1997)
Gilleland currently teaches courses in finance, governance, law and academic policy in the higher education doctoral program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Dr. Gilleland served as the State Higher Education Executive Officer for Arkansas from 1990-1997 and as the Chief Finance Officer from 1986-1990. Prior to joining the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, she served as Deputy Director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education and Senior Fellow at the American Council on Education. Dr. Gilleland has also served in various positions of leadership at the University of Arkansas at Monticello and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Dr. Gilleland received her bachelors and masters degrees in education with a major in English from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and a Ph.D. in higher education from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.
Lu Hardin (1997 – 2002)
Hardin is an Arkansas politician and educator. He served as a Democrat state senator from District 12. In 1996, Hardin lost to Tim Hutchinson in a race for one of Arkansas's U.S. Senate seats. Shortly after this, he was appointed by then-Governor Mike Huckabee as Director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Lu Hardin was the eighth president of the University of Central Arkansas from 2002 until his resignation in 2008. Hardin later served as president of Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Dr. Linda Beene (2002 – 2007)
Beene previously served as senior vice president of Martin-Wilbourn Partners marketing firm, associate provost and dean of the University of Arkansas Global Campus as well as director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Beene has more than 40 years of service to higher education and public schools where she served as a leader on state and university levels. Beene has also represented Arkansas higher education nationally.
Dr. Jim Purcell (2008 – 2011)
Purcell is currently the State Higher Education Executive Officer (SHEEO) of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, having served previously as the SHEEO in Rhode Island, Louisiana and Arkansas. The Alabama native holds an Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Alabama, a M.Ed. in Counseling from the University of Montevallo and a B.S. in Public Administration from Auburn University.
Shane Broadway (2013 – 2015)
Broadway is a former Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives and former director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. He is currently the Vice-President for Governmental Relations at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. Broadway was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1996, serving until 2002. He became Speaker of the Arkansas House during his tenure. Broadway was elected to the Arkansas Senate in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006. In 2010, Broadway ran for Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas, but lost by two points to Mark Darr. Broadway was appointed interim director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education in 2011.
Dr. Brett Powell (2015 – 2016)
Powell previously served as vice president for finance and administration at Henderson State University and director for the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. He also served at Ouachita Baptist University from 2006 to 2015 as vice president for administrative services, associate vice chancellor for finance at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and director of financial services at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.
Dr. Maria Markham (2016 – 2023)
Markham's history with higher education in Arkansas spans over a decade. She has worked in almost every facet of higher education at both a community college and a university, from a work-study student, grant director, full-time faculty, adjunct, division chair, chief academic officer, and then, an agency leader. Dr. Markham is a double alumnae of Henderson State University where she received a BBA in Marketing and an MBA. She later received her Ph.D. in Business with a specialization in Organizational Leadership from North Central University.