FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) – Dr. Robert Leslie Potts, former president of the University of North Alabama (UNA), died at 78 on Friday.

Potts was a Florence native and a Harvard-educated attorney. He served as President of UNA from 1994-2004. During his tenure, a number of things changed at the university, including the national expansion of UNA; campus beautification through projects like the construction of Harrison Plaza and Fountain and the George H. Carroll Lion Habitat; and the creation of the UNA Foundation, where a scholarship was named in his honor.

“Robert’s life was a celebration of the causes he held dear – from his leadership at the University
of North Alabama to his role as long-time advocate for diversity in our state and our region,” said UNA President Dr. Ken Kitts. “Dena and I join the campus and community in mourning the loss of our colleague and friend. He leaves a strong legacy at UNA as a dedicated and tireless
supporter of students and their success. Robert will be greatly missed.”

Students were a priority while he was president. He opened the Child Development Center at the Kilby Laboratory School and the Raburn Wing of the then-College of Business, now the College of Business and Technology. He traveled to Washington D.C. with the UN football team as a part of the team’s historic “three-peat” NCAA Division II championship wins. He is also known for helping to pave the way for online registration for students.

“President Potts was a students’ president,” said Dr. Kimberly Greenway, former Vice President for Student Affairs who served as the Staff Council Chairperson during Potts’ tenure as president. “He articulated often his philosophy that all UNA employees were here to serve and interact with students, whether faculty, administrator, grounds personnel, or other. He genuinely cared about the student experience at UNA and valued the input of students, faculty, and staff. I will always appreciate what he contributed to the University and to my growth as a professional.”

After practicing law, Potts began his career in higher education in 1984 when he accepted the role of General Council at UNA. Having left UNA, he moved to different educational systems like North Dakota University and Arkansas State University – Jonesboro. He concluded his career in higher education by retiring from ASU as interim president.

He remained involved with UNA after his retirement. He served as a member of the UNA President’s Cabinet, which he created as President. In 2020, he received a Lifetime Acheivement Award from the UNA National Alumni Association.