Miss. College Board Names Top HBCU Presidential Candidates

JACKSON Miss. — The preferred candidates to lead two of Mississippi’s historically Black universities have executive experience at historically Black institutions in other states and are prepared to lead schools with distinct academic missions, state College Board members say.

The board announced Monday that it had chosen Dr. Carolyn W. Meyers, a past president of Norfolk State University in Virginia, as the preferred candidate to become president of Jackson State University. If formally approved, Meyers would be the first woman in the top job at JSU, an urban campus in Mississippi’s capital city.

The College Board also announced its choice of Dr. M. Christopher Brown, the current executive vice president and provost at Fisk University in Tennessee, as the preferred candidate for president of Alcorn State University, a land-grant university in the rural southwestern corner of the state.

“We believe the preferred candidates … are the best possible individuals to lead these two great institutions,” College Board member C.D. Smith said during a news conference Monday.

Neither Meyers nor Brown attended the announcement, which followed a search process that lasted several months.

Brown will attend a series of meetings Nov. 30 at ASU’s main campus in Lorman, and Meyers will attend meetings Dec. 1 at JSU.

The College Board, which oversees all eight public universities, is expected to approve them as presidents before Jan. 1. Final approval is usually a formality after an extensive screening process that included two rounds of private interviews.

The ASU president’s salary is $192,937. The JSU president is paid $220,500, plus a $50,000 supplement from a private foundation.

ASU has been without a permanent leader since Dr. George E. Ross stepped down in February to become president of Central Michigan University. Dr. Norris Edney, a longtime ASU faculty member, has been interim president.

Dr. Ronald Mason Jr. left the JSU presidency at the end of June to lead the Southern University System, based in Baton Rouge, La. JSU’s interim president has been longtime political science professor Leslie McLemore.

Meyers resigned as Norfolk State president on June 30, after serving four years of a five-year contract. In November 2009, she was named a finalist for the presidency of Morgan State University in Baltimore but wasn’t selected for the position. This past April, Meyers was one of five semifinalists for the Southern University System in Louisiana, the job for which Mason was chosen.

Before working at Norfolk State, Meyers was provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

College Board member Bob Owens, who led the JSU search, says it’s likely that leaders of Mississippi’s universities will have to cut budgets because of anemic state revenues. Owens says Meyers had to face a similar scenario while at Norfolk State.

“She has experience in being president of a school and doing the cuts, so it won’t be on-the-job (training) for her,” he says.

Dr. Glenda B. Glover, dean of the business school at JSU, served on an advisory committee for the JSU search. Glover says that, although it would be significant if Meyers becomes the university’s first female president, she was selected as the preferred candidate based on her qualifications and professionalism, not her gender.

“She’s already excelled in every aspect of her professional life,” Glover says. “She has knocked down many barriers, being an engineer at a time when it was unheard of for African-American women to conquer such a market.”

Brown has been executive vice president and provost of Fisk since July 2009. Before then, he was dean of the College of Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield, who served on the Alcorn State search advisory committee, says the committee thought Brown was “a natural fit” for the job.

Winfield says Brown has expressed a commitment to distance learning. ASU started offering classes in 2002 in Vicksburg, which is about 50 miles north of Lorman.

“As mayor of Vicksburg, my ultimate goal is to encourage the growth of the university in our community, the Vicksburg-Warren County community,” Winfield says.