ITTA BENA, Miss.
Dr. Lester C. Newman, the embattled president of Mississippi Valley State University, announced his resignation Friday, effective July 15.
Newman, 55, was the target of a “no confidence” vote in February by the historically Black college’s faculty senate. Then, Newman sought to create a committee of faculty and administrators to improve communications and undertook a reorganization that saw many longtime staff members moved to other jobs at the 3,100-student campus.
Newman had hoped to get the reorganization approved by the state College Board in July.
Newman and board members met behind closed doors this week, but Newman declined to comment after leaving the meeting.
“I have a great love for Mississippi Valley State University,” Newman said in his resignation announcement. “It is because of my love for Valley that I have made this decision. It is my hope that the faculty, staff, students and alumni will continue on the journey that we started toward pre-eminence and move the institution to new and greater heights.”
Newman also said he would explore other opportunities, but did not say what they were.
Mississippi’s higher education commissioner, Dr. Thomas C. Meredith, says an interim president will be named before July 15, and the College Board will proceed from there to find a permanent president.
“President Newman has moved Mississippi Valley forward on many fronts. We are indebted to him for his efforts,” Meredith said in a statement.
College Board President Stacy Davidson Jr. said: “The board appreciates Dr. Newman’s years of service to Mississippi Valley and to our state. We wish him well as he explores other opportunities.”
Many faculty and alumni had called for Newman’s firing, criticizing his “micromanagement” leadership style, and claiming that he was a poor manager and exhibited unprofessional behavior toward MVSU supporters, including staff.
“I’m glad this matter is finally resolved so we can focus on providing our students the education they deserve, because that’s the reason we’re here,” says Michele Crescenzo, the faculty senate’s vice president.
Dr. Sam McNair, an associate professor of industrial technology, had been openly criticizing Newman’s leadership since February.
“Dr. Newman was taking us in a direction we didn’t need to be going in,” McNair said Friday. “I wish him well in whatever he goes to do. I wish him the best of luck.”
Dr. Samuel Osunde, an associate professor and chairman of the communications department, had opposed the call for Newman’s resignation.
“We need to unite and move forward for the sake of the students,” says Osunde. “[Newman] did his best and I wish him well.”
Newman, who earned $183,750 a year as president, said the university experienced significant growth and development in a variety of areas during the past nine years. He said the school’s academic programs improved during his tenure, as did student enrollment and faculty salaries.
“I will leave Mississippi Valley State University with a great sense of pride in what we have been able to accomplish as an institution under my leadership,” said Newman. “I sincerely hope that those who love the university will rally behind its new leadership and move forward to make Valley the premier regional institution that I know it can be.”
Newman, a native of Shreveport, La., and a graduate of Southern University in Baton Rouge, became MVSU’s fifth president in July 1998. He succeeded William Sutton, who served as president for 10 years. Newman came to the university from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., where he was vice president for academic affairs.
— Associated Press
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