LeMoyne-Owen, S.C. State Presidents to Step Down

LeMoyne-Owen, S.C. State Presidents to Step Down

MEMPHIS, Tenn.
LeMoyne-Owen College president Dr. George R. Johnson Jr. says, “it’s time to do something else,” and plans to step down this summer.
Johnson, who didn’t elaborate on what he’ll do, has been at the helm of the private, historically Black college for six years. Lucille V. Smith, chairwoman of the college’s Board of Trustees, says Johnson’s departure has nothing to do with the school’s continued funding and enrollment woes.
“He, of all the presidents I’ve lived through, has really been able to express to the community why this school needs to be here,” says Smith, adding that the board has been “extremely supportive” of the 50-year-old former law professor.
Johnson’s achievements include improving the quality of faculty and staff, and adding new technology. But he told The Commercial Appeal last month that he regrets “not being able to achieve … sustaining support for the college.”
He cited the college’s endowment of $12 million dwindling to just over $10 million, partly because the board decided to spend some of the principal in 2000 and partly because of the sagging stock market.
He also is disappointed in the enrollment, which dropped from 988 last spring to about 800 this year. Johnson blamed the decline on the tuition increasing from $7,500 last year to $8,250 this year. Tuition accounts for almost 70 percent of the college’s $10.3 million budget.
Smith says the search for a successor has not yet started.
Meanwhile, South Carolina State University soon will begin a search to appoint its ninth president with the announcement of President Leroy Davis’ retirement.
Dr. Davis made his announcement at the end of his state of the university address to the faculty general assembly last month. His retirement is effective June 30, the end of the fiscal year. The announcement came as Davis faced scrutiny and criticism from some members of the college’s Board of Trustees. The university community had talked about his possible departure for several weeks amid the friction between Davis and the board majority.
Davis described his departure as an amicable separation.
“Retirement will allow me the opportunity to consider other professional and personal interests and to devote more time to my family,” Davis says. “Over the next six months my focus will be on continuing the forward progress of the university and providing presidential leadership during these financially challenging times and uncertain times.”
When he took over the reins in 1995, the school found itself with morale and financial problems. Finances continue to pose difficulties for the institution today. The death of a student in 1998 brought attention to budget problems and the need to update housing for students. In the late 1990s, the school borrowed from one fiscal year to pay bills from the preceding year, which is against state law. The state loaned the school money in 1999 to help wipe out a shortfall.
Davis is a 1971 S.C. State graduate and has been employed with the university since 1973, where he served as biology professor, director of Institutional Self Studies, vice provost for academic administration and interim president before the Board of Trustees selected him as the university’s eighth president. 
— Linda Meggett Brown contributed to this report.



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