Edward Waters College, the small cash-strapped historically Black college in Jacksonville, Fla., has turned to an alumnus and former sheriff to serve as interim president.
Nat Glover, a member of Edward Waters’ class of 1966, officially became interim president of the African Methodist Episcopal-affiliated college last week. He replaces Dr. Claudette Williams, who announced her resignation at the end of February to take a job as vice president with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the agency that accredits Edward Waters.
Glover, a former sheriff of Duval County and the first African-American sheriff in Florida since Reconstruction, inherits the top administrative position at a college that confronts persistent challenges.
For decades, the school has had a reputation as a place that accommodates students with little or no money even though its own finances were tight. Some alumni, including Glover, recall that as students they went door to door in Jacksonville to raise funds for the college. In an interview earlier this year, Williams said the college had a deficit of $3.3 million when she took over as president. By the middle of the 2009-10 school year, the deficit had been reduced by $600,000, Williams said at the time, adding that she was confident it would be eliminated by the end of the school year.
Glover, who until last week was on the Edward Waters College trustee board, says he is confident the deficit will be eliminated by the end of the month.
“We have to get our midterm report in to the Southern Accreditation of Colleges and Schools,” he says. “We have to submit a balanced budget.”
He estimates the Edward Waters needs $1.8 million to eliminate the deficit and says the college has been raising the money on its own and also with the help of the AME church.
While the elimination of the deficit will give the college a fresh start, it won’t cure all its financial ailments.
“Finances will always be a concern in private HBCUs unless you’re one of the few that’s stable as it relates to income and an endowment,” says Glover. “The economy has not been a friend of any institution, even state-funded institutions.”
Finances are just one problem, however. The school has struggled with declining enrollment numbers in recent years, though they have inched up slightly in the last year or two and is currently at about 900. In her tenure as president, Williams laid off several full-time faculty and replaced them with adjunct professors. Williams said she tried to right-size some programs, particularly those with low enrollment. The decision received the backing of the college board of trustees.
Williams also required all employees to sign confidentiality agreements that classified all on-campus materials as confidential. A clause in the agreement stipulated that violations could be as high as $5,000 a day, not including other legal action.
Glover, who has worked as an administrator of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, said last week that he would revisit the agreement and consult with presidents of other colleges before making a decision on whether to keep it.
In the meantime, Glover wants to focus on improving customer service and trying to weave best practices throughout the college’s operations, including finances. Doing so, he says, would make it easier for the college to attract more financial help from supporters.
“I think we can improve on our image in the community,” he says. “I think we’ve got a tremendous support base out there … and we need to build on that. There’s some fruit that’s low hanging and we can improve on that.”
He says he is not critical of the work of the previous president and he does not want to change much of what she did, just build on it.
“Coming here and saying I want to change things would imply that something was wrong with the previous administration and that’s not the case at all,” he says. “I think there’s an opportunity there with contacts. I want to increase collaboration with other schools in the community. I think it’s in all of our best interests to increase the number of graduates in this city and this state.”
An assistant said Bishop McKinley Young, the chair of the college’s board of trustees, was traveling and could not immediately be reached. But in an interview with the Jacksonville Times-Union, Young said Glover was selected as interim president because of his ties to the school and the community.
The college’s board has begun a search for a permanent president, a process that could last a year or longer. Glover says he has no plans to seek the college presidency “at this point.”
“If I was asked today, I would say let me fulfill my role as interim,” he says.
Williams declined comment when reached at her office late Friday morning at the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. She said making any comments, even privately, would violate her agreement with the college
Dr. Tom Benberg, SACS vice president and chief of staff, says that in her new position Williams will work closely with 10 or 11 member colleges and universities on accreditation activities.
Benberg said Williams was not recruited for the job.
“We advertised a position and took applications and screened (them) and had interviews with a number of candidates,” he says. “We actually didn’t recruit anybody.”