Dr. Don Tharpe elected as Murray State University Board of Regents chairperson

By Shawn Touney | Jun 23, 2022

Dr. Don Tharpe

Dr. Don I. Tharpe, `74, `75, was appointed Murray State University Board of Regents chairperson during the University’s quarterly Board of Regents meeting on June 3, 2022, becoming the first African American Board of Regents chair in the institution’s history.

Appointed to the Board of Regents in 2017, Tharpe becomes the first African American Board of Regents chairperson in the University’s history 


MURRAY, Ky. — Dr. Don I. Tharpe, `74, `75, was appointed Murray State University Board of Regents chairperson during the University’s quarterly Board of Regents meeting on June 3, 2022, becoming the first African American Board of Regents chair in the institution’s history. A member of Murray State’s Board of Regents since 2017, Tharpe has most recently served as Board of Regents vice chair and audit and compliance committee chair. 

He assumes the role of chair on July 1, 2022, and will succeed Eric Crigler, `90, whose term on the Board began in 2018 and expires on June 30, 2022.

Tharpe was voted unanimously by his Board of Regents’ colleagues for the leadership position of chairperson.

“As chair of the Murray State University Board of Regents, Dr. Don Tharpe will continue his excellent leadership as  a dedicated collaborator and forward-thinking advocate for the best interests of Murray State University,” Murray State President Dr. Bob Jackson said. “Dr. Tharpe has been a tremendous asset to our Board of Regents since his appointment in 2017. Both personally and professionally, I am extremely grateful for our relationship. As a native Kentuckian and Murray State alumnus, he cares deeply about the continued upward trajectory of our institution as we all work together to advance Murray State University.”  

“I am honored to be selected as the next chair of the Murray State University Board of Regents,” Tharpe said. “The fact that this vote was unanimous humbles me greatly. I am passionate about my role as a board member and the work the board does as a body and as temporary caretakers of the University’s assets. This is a significant appointment because we are living in a world that realizes the importance of diversity and inclusion. There is no better way for the University’s board to exhibit their commitment to diversity and inclusion than to elect a black man to this very important and influential position. The significance of this appointment is not just centered around our work at the board table, but the significance ripples out to include our entire University community. This community is made up of students, faculty, staff, administrators, students’ families, alumni and supporters.”

Tharpe is a native of Mayfield, Kentucky, and a 1970 graduate of Mayfield High School. He is the son of the late Rev. Cleo and Dorothy Tharpe and has immediate family that reside in western Kentucky. As a working high school student, he was employed at the West Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation and Hawkins Furniture Store. Tharpe then attended Murray State University where he earned both Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in industrial education. He earned his doctorate in educational administration from Virginia Polytechnic & State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. 

Tharpe’s career in association management spanned more than 30 years. He served as Chief Operations Officer of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., President & CEO of the Pan American Health and Education Foundation and President & CEO of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Prior to that, he was Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Council on Foundations. Tharpe was also Executive Director of the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO). For more than seven years prior to his work with ASBO, Tharpe held several senior positions at the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE).

Prior to his career in non-profit management, Tharpe was employed at the Missouri State Department of Education.

In addition to Tharpe’s extensive non-profit management background, he has consulted for a number of organizations, authored numerous articles on association management and served on the board of several non-profit organizations.

Tharpe has been a member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), a former vice chair of its board and is an ASAE Fellow.

After advancing his career in Washington D.C., Tharpe returned to Kentucky and continues to give back. He has served as a board member for The United Way of the Bluegrass in Lexington, Kentucky and was a member of its finance committee. He also served as a member of the Bluegrass Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, also located in Lexington. Tharpe also served on the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission. 

In 2005, Tharpe was conferred the honor of Kentucky Colonel by Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher.

Tharpe received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Murray State University in 2005, the highest honor an alumnus or alumna can earn from the Murray State University Alumni Association in recognizing those who have excelled both professionally and personally. Tharpe was also the recipient of the African American Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018. 

“Murray State is a special place for me because it is the place that provided me with, at an early age, the education and work ethic that allowed me to have a very successful professional career,” Tharpe said. “Murray State taught me that it is not about where you come from that matters, it is about where you are going.”

Tharpe is a resident of Nicholasville, Kentucky. 

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