Dr. Ryan L Watley is a native of Pine Bluff, AR, graduate of Pine Bluff High School, past Assistant Director of Development at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and currently is the CEO of Go Forward Pine Bluff.
Dr. Watley holds a doctoral degree in organic chemistry from the University of Oklahoma where he successfully designed and synthesized novel drugs for cancer. He has published in high impact journals and was awarded a United States patent for his drug development methodology.
During his Ph.D. studies, Dr. Watley became passionate about creating resources for Northeast Academy located in Oklahoma City and was tabbed Director of Development by the school board. During his three-year tenure from 2012 to 2015, Watley tripled the fundraising dollars of the academy. He left in place a fundraising model in order to sustain success. In January of 2015, Dr. Watley joined the athletics staff at Rose State Community College as community outreach and fundraising assistant to the athletics’ department. There he was directly responsible for creating, increasing, and expanding the value of the department, which led to the best two financial quarters in Rose State Athletics’ two-year renaissance. He was chosen by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in a national search of 20 to attend its leadership institute for emerging leaders. In addition, he was also chosen in a national field of 13 by Learfield Sports Marketing firm to attend their Leadership Academy. Upon graduation, Watley chose to return to Pine Bluff over five other job opportunities, including prestigious Hendrix College and Georgia Southern University.
Since returning to Pine Bluff in August of 2015, Watley has joined, and in some capacities, lead citywide efforts to promote UAPB, Pine Bluff, and Jefferson County. Dr. Watley is an active member of the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. His involvement with the chamber led him to join the 2015-2016 Leadership Pine Bluff Class and is now a board member of the Chamber. He is a regular volunteer for the Arts and Science Center as well as a Trustee, tutors for many different organizations, and a member of the Pine Bluff Jefferson County UAPB/AM&N Alumni Chapter and the University of Oklahoma Alumni Chapter. Watley was the Assistant Campaign Chair for United Way in 2016 and Campaign Chair in 2017. He is also a member of the Pine Bluff Rotary Club. He has recently joined the Jefferson Hospital Foundation Board and serves on the Finance Committee and Patient Care Committee. As a result of his efforts, Watley was issued a citation by the Arkansas House of Representatives and Senate via the UAPB/AM&N Alumni Chapter of Jefferson County for his community work. He was also named citizen of the year in 2016 by the Tau Phi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Incorporated. In February of 2020, Watley will be recognized as a community Jewel by the Southeast Arkansas Jewel Foundation.
Dr. Watley joined Go Forward Pine Bluff as CEO-elect in May of 2017 and became CEO after the successful passage of the Go Forward Pine Bluff tax initiative approved by Pine Bluff voters on June 13, 2017. He has since been featured on the cover of Arkansas Business and deemed a super mover by the company. Dr. Watley attributes his success to the core values of faith, family, and responding to the needs of others.