The University of Central Arkansas has hired a new chief of staff — about nine months after former chief Jack Gillean suddenly stepped down in June amid an investigation into whether he allowed a former student to use his master keys to break into academic buildings and steal exams.

On Wednesday, President Tom Courtway said he had picked Kelley L. Erstine, the chief executive officer of a professional trade association in North Carolina, to fill the position.

Erstine starts July 1. He was hand selected by Courtway.

"I felt like he was the right person for the job," Courtway said.

Courtway said he left Gillean’s old position open long enough. He said in June he planned not to fill the position immediately.

"I felt like it was time to hire someone," Courtway said.

Erstine said he was not worried about jumping into the position in the wake of controversy.

"I’m not fearful at all for anything that’s happened in the past," Erstine said. "I’m not one to look back."

The controversy at UCA includes Gillean, who was charged in October with one misdemeanor and four felonies, including commercial burglary. UCA has also seen two presidents resign and plead guilty to wrongdoing since 2008.

Courtway said Erstine knows UCA well, is a proven administrator and is well-known statewide. Ernstine graduated UCA with a degree in journalism in 1979, according to a news release.

Previously, Erstine served on the UCA Board of Trustees and served as vice president for Institutional Advancement.

Erstine said he had known Courtway for years and he was honored to get the job. Courtway said he thought about who he wanted to work with and then called Erstine.

"He is thoroughly committed to the University of Central Arkansas, and he and his wife, Leslie, are very excited to have the opportunity to return to Arkansas to live and work," Courtway said in the release. "He will be a valuable asset to UCA as we continue to move forward. I am very pleased he has agreed to return to UCA."

Erstine said he is excited to come back to Conway. The family plans to sell its home and look for a home in Conway, he said.

Erstine will earn $170,000, compared to Gillean, who left UCA after several years in the position, at about $143,737. More expectations appear to have been added to the job description.

The position is basically an aide to the president and oversees all operations of the president’s office, according to UCA’s job description. That includes providing analysis and consultations to the president and the Board of Trustees.

Courtway said he needed to fill the position now so he could pursue important projects to move the university forward. Erstine said he wanted to be part of initiatives trustees discussed last week.

Those initiatives included increasing enrollment, boosting retention and improving facilities.

Erstine said he loves UCA.

"Brighter days are ahead for UCA, so I want to be part of that vision," he said.

(Staff writer Scarlet Sims can be reached by email at or by phone at 505-1246. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to Send us your news at