Academic Community Stunned
by FAMU President’s Resignation
Provost James Ammons will leave to head N.C. Central University
By Pearl Stewart
On the same day the National Alumni Association of Florida A&M University took out a full-page ad in the local newspaper touting the accomplishments of its president, Dr. Frederick Humphries, stunned the campus, the state and even his closest associates with the announcement of his resignation.
As hundreds looked on through a persistent afternoon drizzle last month, Humphries stood on the steps of the administration building and declared the end of his 16-year presidency
effective June 30.
With few exceptions, the 65-year-old president garnered praise for attracting some of the brightest scholars in the nation to FAMU and for significantly increasing the university’s enrollment.
Humphries’ announcement was doubly astonishing because it came just days after
Dr. James H. Ammons Jr., FAMU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, submitted his resignation to become chancellor of North Carolina Central University in Durham.
“It’s unfair for people to expect that I’ll be president forever,” Humphries told the crowd of several hundred media, faculty and students gathered on the lawn for what was initially scheduled as a press conference. “It’s time for me to move on. It’s time for a vigorous young Rattler to come in here and do the job.”
Beyond that, Humphries gave only general and philosophical reasons for his decision. In his letter to State University System Chancellor Adam Herbert, Humphries said the “milestone” of returning the FAMU Law School to the university system was one of the remarkable achievements of his tenure.
“Because of our commitment to excellence, FAMU today stands as one of the most respected institutions of higher learning in the nation,” the letter stated. In his response to Humphries’ letter, the chancellor, who also recently tendered his resignation, commended Humphries for his major accomplishments.
Herbert told Humphries that it was “largely because of his efforts,” that FAMU was named “College of the Year” by Time Magazine-Princeton Review in 1997, and he noted that Humphries was the first college president to be honored by the Turner Broadcasting System during its Trumpet Awards earlier this year.
Although Humphries reiterated in subsequent days that his decision was voluntary, many of his supporters called on him to reconsider, or to at least stay on until the state’s reorganization of its educational system was complete.
Humphries’ announced departure comes as the Florida State University System is about to change its entire administrative framework. The Republican-dominated legislature is expected to approve a plan by Gov. Jeb Bush to eliminate the Board of Regents and set up individual boards of trustees for each institution in the system.
Despite the protests, skepticism about the timing of the announcement persisted, driven by racial and political undercurrents. Repeated anti-Republican demonstrations — including those led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson — on the campus during the fall election controversy irked many high-ranking state officials. Gov. Bush’s One Florida Plan, which abolished affirmative action in the state’s university system, also has been a source of debate and protest at FAMU.
There had been speculation that the regents’ meeting would shed more light on Humphries’ decision. A performance report of each institution’s president was on the agenda, leading to speculation that Humphries’ evaluation would be poor.
“On the contrary, it accurately reflects the progress FAMU has been making under President Humphries’ tenure,” says Keith Goldschmidt, spokesman for the Board of Regents.
Humphries says he will take a year’s leave to study at Cambridge University in England, and to visit the Educational Testing Service at Princeton. After that, he plans to head up a
policy research center at FAMU’s new law school in Orlando.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com