Purcell took the helm of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education in April, 2017. His tenure in Alabama, combined with Arkansas, Louisiana and Rhode Island, makes him the longest serving active State Higher Education Executive Officer in the country. He has served in cabinet positions of four governors which include one Republican (LA), two Democrats (AR, RI) and one Independent (RI).
As an Alabama native, he is committed to providing accessible, affordable, high-quality educational opportunities for all.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic when higher education was forced to make rapid transitions, Purcell worked closely with institutions in broadening student access and advocating for funds to support needed programs.
During his career, he has served as chief higher education planning and research officer at public, private two- and four-year institutions, as well as at the state level. He continues to use this experience as a strong advocate for planning, the fidelity of implementation of strategic initiatives and ongoing assessment.
He grew up in rural Autauga County, graduating from Marbury High School before attending Auburn University where he earned a B.S. in Public Administration. He holds a M.Ed. in Counseling from the University of Montevallo and an Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Alabama.