Aguillard's recent tenure was shaken by a series of controversies that led to the call of a student strike against his administration. On March 27, 2014, it was reported that the LC trustees had asked Aguillard to resign but he did not do so. On April 15, 2014, the trustees voted to name Aguillard as president emeritus beginning August 1, with Argile Smith, the associate dean of Christian ministry of the Caskey School of Divinity, tapped as the interim president, also effective on August 1 as well. Aguillard remained president until May 31, 2014 at which time Smith served for two months as the "president pro tempore" and then the interim president. Aguillard assisted Smith in the transition of administration and beginning in 2015 resumed his former tenured professorship in the LC Graduate Teacher Education program.
Aguillard was born in Basile, a small town near Crowley on the border of Acadia and Evangeline parishes in South Louisiana, the son of Harry Aguillard (1918-1969) and the former Helyn Greene, both graduates of Louisiana College. He confessed his faith in Jesus Christ at a young age in his local Baptist church.
After graduation in 1974 from Basile High School, an entity of the Evangeline Parish School Board, Aguillard entered Louisiana College, where he completed in three years his Bachelor of Arts in the fields of English and communications. There, he met his future wife, the former Judy Collins. The couple has threedaughters, Jill, Julie, and Jodi, all LC graduates.
Aguillard earned Master of Education degrees in two fields: (1) Guidance/ Counseling and (2) Administration/Supervision from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana. In 1989, he received a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Aguillard is a former president of the organization, Deans of the Colleges of Education in Louisiana. In 2004, then Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco appointed Aguillard to the Blue Ribbon Commission on Education as the representative for higher education.
In 2000, Aguillard joined the faculty as chairman of the LC education department. In 2004, he was named "Outstanding Teacher of the Year" at LC.
Prior to 2000, he had been employed in DeRidder in southwestern Louisiana by the Beauregard Parish School Board, his last position there from 1999 to 2000 having been as the school superintendent. As he became superintendent, Aguillard attended a prayer rally called to seek spiritual help for Beauregard Parish schools. The gathering was hosted by then State Senator B. G. Dyess of Alexandria, a since deceased Baptist clergyman of many decades and an alumnus of Louisiana College.
Aguillard is a member of the rural Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville in eastern Rapides Parish. Several of his fellow church members called for a "prayer walk" for Louisiana College on March 29, 2014, amid the buildup of opposition to President Aguillard's tenure.
Aguillard was elected president by the LC board of trustees, effective January 19, 2005, to succeed Rory Lee, who became executive director of Baptist Children's Village, a statewide ministry based in Ridgeland, Mississippi, that provides group homes for children and spiritual counseling for families. Aguillard had apparently not been the first choice of the trustees. Malcolm Beryl Yarnell, III (born 1962), a native of upstate New York and a scholar on the English Reformation who teaches at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, was first considered, but he bowed out citing "governance issues" at LC. Aguillard was not formally inaugurated as president until March 2006.
In the fall 2006, former U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush accepted Aguillard's invitation to come to the campus to speak during the LC centennial ceremonies.
In 2012, the Louisiana Baptist Convention granted approval to Louisiana College to seek $12 million in donations from member churches within the state as part of the institution's $50 million capital improvements program. The $12 million will be earmarked for improvements in student housing. Cottingham Hall, built in 1941, is marked for full renovation, roof, plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, and ventilation.
Under Aguillard, LC is attempting to build a law school to be named for the Texas state legislator and judge, Paul Pressler, to be located in a former federal building in Shreveport in northwestern Louisiana. Work on the law school continues, but no students have yet been admitted.
Nor have plans been finished for the opening of the proposed LC medical school and film school.
LC ended its fiscal year July 31, 2012, with a deficit of $1.3 million deficit; the institution spent $30.5 million during that time but collected only $29.2 million in revenues.
In February 2012, Louisiana College filed suit against the U.S. government to contest the federal directive that even religious institutions must include in their insurance coverage for employees the costs of contraceptives, sterilization, and drugs which induce abortions.
The next month, Aguillard hosted a campaign event on the LC campus for former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, who was then seeking the Republican presidential nomination subsequently won by Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. During the rally, Aguillard claimed that he would "consider shutting down" Louisiana College if the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is implemented. The measure was signed into law by President Barack H. Obama on March 23, 2010, but did not immediately take effect. Aguillard continues to argue for repeal. Aguillard, himself a Republican, did not endorse Gingrich as his choice for the presidential nomination; a few days later he performed the same introductory honors for then U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas. Another Republican contender, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, spoke to LC students prior to the Louisiana primary election on the topic of "freedom, faith, and family."
In December 2013, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools reaffirmed LC accreditation after two years of warning status. Sanctions were removed, and no further monitoring is required. A follow-up report is due c. 2017.
In January 2014, Tommy French, the founding former pastor of Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, was elected chairman of the LC board of trustees. French said that he intends to monitor the accreditation issue to "strengthen the college and every department. ... We’re staying on top of our accreditation. These new matters require constant attention."
In March 2014, less than three months after the reaffirmation of LC's accreditation, SACS senior vice president and chief of staff Michael Johnson confirmed that the agency will "investigate" LC after college officials were accused of having submitted documents that contain forged signatures and other inconsistencies in its official reports.
Aguillard has been engaged in conflicts with various faculty members and administrators, at least three of whom were non-renewed in 2013 over what he calls the spread on the campus of Calvinism and its doctrine of unconditional election: "For Calvinism to advance, I had to be stopped. [The Calvinists] were the attackers ..." Prior to the time of conflict, Aguillard in 2011 had a heart attack, open-heart surgery, and successful rehabilitation.
Another dispute centers on funding of the Caskey School of Divinity. The Cason Foundation, which had donated $5 million to LC to fund the school, announced that it will no longer financially support the college because of "actions of President Aguillard which we believe to be unethical and potentially illegal." Edgar D. Cason and his wife, Flora Jean Caskey Cason, of Coushatta in Red River Parish, who established the foundation, informed LC trustees by letter on April 15, 2013, that the foundation was terminating its ties to LC. A probe conducted by a law firm in New Orleans claims that Aguillard had improperly diverted nearly $60,000 in divinity school donations to LC projects in Tanzania, Africa. A committee of five LC board members, however, defended Aguillard and maintain that he did not act improperly regarding the funds. Cason, a wealthy timber operator, farmer, and cattleman, has supported conservative Republican candidates, including Santorum for President, and issues, such as the Louisiana Values Political Action Committee. Cason questioned why the LC trustees did not permit him to address the board at its March meeting.
In a private executive session of the trustees on March 18 and 19, 2013, two motions regarding Aguillard were defeated. One called for his outright removal; another proposed administrative leave. Aguillard submitted a statement to the Alexandria Daily Town Talk in which he declared the executive session to have been "productive. I am looking forward to leading Louisiana College into the best days God has prepared for us."
It was subsequently revealed that the special committee of the trustees had voted four-to-three to clear Aguillard of wrongdoing regarding the diverted Cason funds. One of the dissenting votes was cast by Tony Perkins, a Republican former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and the president of the Family Research Council. Perkins subsequently in an email to the Reverend Kris Chenier, the pastor of the Trinity Heights Baptist Church in Shreveport and the chairman of the special LC panel, questioned why the committee had implied that the decision to clear Aguillard had been unanimous, rather than by the margin of a single vote.
In March 2014, The Alexandria Town Talk reported that a taped recording from late May or early June 2012, released by former LC vice president Charles L. "Chuck" Quarles, indicates that Aguillard spoke personally with the Casons about the diversion of funds to the Tanzania project. On May 21, 2013, however, Aguillard told The Town Talk that he had not spoken to the Casons but had received confirmation from Quarles that the couple had agreed that some of the funds could be used for the Tanzania project. The Casons said that they will make no further comments about the dispute.
On April 30, 2013, the trustees in a special meeting called regarding the future of President Aguillard voted to retain him as president and laid spiritual hands over him. At first it was not disclosed how many of the thirty-four trustees were present for the special meeting or the breakdown of the vote, but the majority declared the matter closed for further consideration. Subsequently, it was reported that board split sixteen-to-thirteen in Aguillard's favor, with five trustees absent or not voting.
On May 1, 2013, Aguillard announced that a Baptist couple had anonymously donated $10 million to LC as a means of showing support for his leadership. It is the largest single donation ever to the institution.
In July 2013, Timothy "Tim" Johnson, the outgoing LC vice president, dispatched a letter to the trustees in which he contends that Aguillard's anti-Calvinist stance is designed to "detract attention from the real problems” at the institution. According to Johnson, Aguillard developed "the political football of Calvinism. ... No concern for truth and integrity. In the process, good men and their families have been damaged while pastors and people all around our state know that Calvinism was not the issue."
Johnson spent six years as executive vice president under Aguillard and was the chairman of the trustees in January 2005, when Aguillard was selected as president in a decision opposed by many LC faculty members. Johnson filed a whistleblower complaint with the trustees against Aguillard on February 5, 2013. He was notified on May 17 that his contract, which expired July 31, would not be renewed. Johnson said that he knew that he could lose his position when he filed the complaint but had thought the trustees would, in his words, "do the right thing". After leaving LC, Johnson has been a part-time pastor.
On March 11, March 2014, Johnson filed a lawsuit in the Ninth Judicial District Court in Alexandria against LC and Aguillard for wrongful termination based on the whistleblower complaint. Johnson, who was paid $146,000 annually in salary and benefits, is seeking damages, court costs, and "general and equitable relief." Johnson in the suit lists Aguillard as his "joint employer", because, based on a released recording, Aguillard told an employee, who recorded the conversation: "I am the employer, and I sign your contract. You don't work for the college. The college ... is a place of work. The employer is me, and the employee is you."
According to another part of the recording, Aguillard demands that all employees be fully loyal to him as the president of the institution because he "knows things nobody else knows" and is the "biblical authority" on the campus. Aguillard said loyalty to him is more essential than competency in a job description.
Chuck Quarles, the former LC vice president who had also been the dean of the LC Caskey School of Divinity, had filed a whistleblower complaint against Aguillard on December 11, 2012, two months before Johnson's challenge. Quarles resigned at the end of the school year in 2013 and accepted a position as a professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
Argile Smith, the executive vice president, the vice president of Integration of Faith and Learning, and Aguillard's eventual interim successor as the LC president, said, "The faculty, staff, and students, have been so supportive through this journey. Our President has shown us how to work through a crisis with the kind of integrity that comes from a resilient relationship with Christ. Now that the crisis is behind us, Louisiana College can get back to fulfilling our mission, 'to change the World for Christ!'".
"Louisiana College is focused on moving past the Calvinism coup and strategically addressing her mission, of bringing every lost soul to Christ as we strive to fulfill our Mission", said Aguillard. Dr. Tommy French, chairman of the LC trustees, said, "The board is thrilled at the SACS Reaffirmation in December, 2013 and looks forward to the bright future as our President leads Louisiana College to fulfill her mission.”
On February 26, 2014, two documents were leaked online disclosing an alleged blackmail attempt by Aguillard's former assistant, Joseph Cole. The first document, released minutes from an executive committee meeting of the LC Board of Trustees, contends that Cole threatened to leak "office secrets" to the The Alexandria Town Talk or Save Our Louisiana College unless the college paid him $25,000 cash plus overtime pay and benefits. Cole claimed that Aguillard forged signatures on official SACS documents, abused pain medications, and had knowledge of an incident in a hotel room involving Cole, pornography, and two LC male college freshmen prior to his hiring of Cole as his executive assistant.
The second document contained the college's agreement to pay Cole the $25,000; in exchange, Cole was to sign a non-disclosure agreement with the college. The document contains a letter from the Armour Law Firm, which then represented LC. This document confirms Cole's claims that Aguillard had forged multiple signatures on official SACS documents and had hindered an internal investigation into the matter. When Aguillard, who had previously recused himself from the matter, insisted that Armour immediately surrender all of the information pertaining to the Joseph Cole dispute, the law firm decided not to renew its contract with Louisiana College and wrote:
Several of the signature pages of reports which were provided as part of the College's report to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools were significant in that they called into question the authenticity of signatures, including thouse of Tim Whitman, Peggy Pack, Dr. Charles Quarles, and Michael Travers. The Vice President Evaluation of Dr. Michael Travers was even post-dated "May 10, 2011," but was sent to SACS on March 1, 2011. Further, evaluations by Dr. Searcy were stamp dated for 2009-2010 before he was even employed at Louisiana College ... Dr. Aguillard rescinded his decision to recuse himself from the Joseph Cole issue and demanded the Joseph Cole file from the Armour Law Firm and Dr. Tim Searcy ... In my opinion, for me to comply with Dr. Aguillard's written and verbal demand to release him documentation concerning the examination of the allegations against Dr. Aguillard is inappropriate...given the circumstances such as those outlined in this letter, I do not believe that I can continue to represent Louisiana College.
A student strike against Aguillard, called "Prayers for Progress", took place at 8 a.m. Monday, March 24, 2014 at LC's Guinn Auditorium. An anonymous student spokesman said, "Our terms are resignation of the president or dismissal by the board." According to a flier the dissidents vow to "shut down the school by not attending classes until we are heard, and we make steps in the right direction." Aguillard at a forum on March 20 described LC as "an open book regarding our future and our strength and reminding one another it’s not about us, it’s all about Jesus." A reporter for the Alexandria Daily Town Talk attended the forum for forty-five minutes before being asked to leave. Aguillard claimed that the newspaper "printed false information" in recent articles about the status of the college and its evaluation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The strike drew few student participants though two LC trustees and several alumni did appear to show their opposition to President Aguillard. About fifty persons gathereed at the auditorium to hold hands, pray, and sing. Organizers blamed the weak turnout on fear of retaliation by the college administration. LC had warned students in a notice that a strike would constitute a possible violation of college policies that could result in severe sanctions, such as suspension, denial of a degree, or expulsion, all on the first violation of the code. Media representatives were asked to leave the campus at the time of the gathering.
Though the strike appeared to have been a failure, it was disclosed three days later that Aguillard had lost the support of the majority of the trustees. The Alexandria Town Talk reported that opposition to Aguillard had mushroomed after David Hankins, the executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, reportedly dropped his support after learning that Aguillard had been recorded as having said that Hankins might be the individual promoting Calvinism on the LC campus and could "get caught in his own lies".
After the comments about Hankins became public, Aguillard wrote the Baptist executive director a letter expressing his "remorse" over having made such remarks: "I pray that you will forgive me, and we can continue to work closely together for Christ."
Ten LC trustees who had formerly opposed Aguillard released a public letter on March 28, 2014 critical of Aguillard's leadership: "It has been about the abuse of power and authoritarian control. We are concerned with truth and transparency and we believe the [Louisiana Baptist] Convention should be concerned about the same. ... we encourage the entire board to be unified in charting a new direction for the college." The ten dissidents, including Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, said that they would have called for Aguillard's termination in 2013 had not convention executive director David Hankins exerted "undue influence" in defense of Aguillard. Several trustees indicated that Aguillard, not Hankins, is the focus of their concern.
On April 2, 2014, the Alexandria Town Talk reported that Aguillard will not resign as LC president and has "new evidence" to report to the trustees at their next meeting on April 14.
On April 15, Dr. Aguillard chose to step down. The board voted to name Argile Smith as the interim president, and to seek a new leader for the campus. Aguillard will hold the title president emeritus effective August 1, 2014. He begins a one-year paid sabbatical on June 1 at his full $202,007 base salary. If he decides to return to LC as a tenured professor in 2015-2016, he will receive 50 percent of his current base pay, or $101,003.50. For each subsequent year as an LC senior professor, beginning with the 2016-2017 academic year, he will receive 30 percent of his current base salary, or $60,602.10.
Three weeks after Aguillard vacated the LC presidency, the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in its annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas, again placed Louisiana College on probation because of issues related to trustee board governance, institutional integrity, personnel policies, and audit findings regarding student financial aid and other financial control matters.
Interim president Argile Smith said that the decision by SACS is "disappointing" but "represents an opportunity for Louisiana College to address the issues in preparation for the arrival of a new president. Fortunately, the issues don’t bring into question in any way the excellent classroom work being done by our professors and students. The issues have to do with administrative areas."
On August 28, 2014, Aguillard was honored as president emeritus at the weekly chapel service for his ten-year commitment to Louisiana College. Leon M. Hyatt, Jr., a former LC trustee and friend of Aguillard's, told the audience: "I want to say probably Dr. Aguillard is the most criticized president the college has ever had. Why? Because, like Jesus, he told it like it is." Hyatt attributed much of the criticism of Aguillard to the former president's defense of biblical principles rejected in the secular world. Hyatt noted Aguillard's belief in the inerrancy of Scripture, an issue which went to court regarding a dispute with several former LC professors. The particular matter ultimately ended in Aguillard's favor in a decision by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Hyatt did not mention the controversies of 2013 and 2014 that led to Aguillard's departure from the helm of LC.
Though Aguillard remained president-emeritus and a faculty member after he left the LC presidency, he was terminated from both positions in the spring of 2016 following an evaluation. In September 2016, Aguillard filed suit in the 9th Judicial District Court in Alexandria to seek damages for "civil conspiracy" involving breach of contract, assault and battery, and emotional distress. The defendants include Louisiana College, Aguillard's permanent presidential successor Rick Brewer, private investigator Don Benton Connor, Sr., and the insurance underwriting firm RSUI Indemnity Company.An out-of-court settlement was believed to have been pending in December 2016.
Then in late May 2017, Louisiana College filed a civil suit seeking unspecified damages for defamation against former President Aguillard, who it alleges "engaged in a regular and pervasive campaign to undercut" the institution including "ghostwriting faculty member grievances" against the administration. The suit cites an "anonymous package" reportedly circulated by Aguillard of "derogatory statements" about the college. Individual plaintiffs include LC president Rick Brewer and Cheryl Clark, whom Aguillard accused of having illegally changed the final grades of more than "a dozen nursing students."
On March 15, 2011, two weeks before his heart attack, Aguillard, at his peak capacity as the LC president, dedicated the Godbold-Ware Plaza, named for former LC presidents Edgar Godbold and Edwin O. Ware, Sr., the first LC president. Present at the ceremony was Ware's grandson Ed Ware, a former district attorney for Rapides Parish. The remarks are carried on YouTube.