Passing the Torch
I can only assume that one of the goals and hopes of a college president is to leave their respective institution better off than they found it. For presidents of Black colleges, however, this is sometimes easier said than done. Often these presidents take the helm at institutions that are facing fiscal deficits and low student enrollment, to name a few of the challenges.
Still, these presidents, armed with a strong sense of purpose, lead these historic institutions with the hopes of taking them to another level.
Dr. Leonard Dawson of Voorhees College, Dr. Frederick Humphries of Florida A&M University, Dr. Joe Lee of Tougaloo College, Dr. Julius Nimmons of the University of the District of
Columbia and Dr. Gloria Dean Randle Scott of Bennett College are among the presidents of historically Black colleges and universities who are retiring this summer. Each will leave a unique and lasting imprint on the historically Black institutions they’ve headed.
In “Parting Words,” (see page 22), Cheryl D. Fields solicited the aforementioned presidents to reflect on the state of higher education and share their thoughts on the most important priorities facing the succeeding generation of HBCU presidents. In “A Presidential Class Matriculates,” (see page 18), Ronald Roach takes a look at some veteran educators, such as Dr. Antoine Garibaldi and Dr. Rodney Smith who have recently garnered presidential appointments at predominantly White institutions — Gannon University and Ramapo College respectively. Not to mention Dr. Ruth Simmons, who was named president of Brown University late last year, making her the first African American to head an Ivy League institution. Dr. Yolanda Moses, president of the American Association for Higher Education, says Simmons’ appointment confirms that it’s possible for elite, predominantly White schools to be as serious about diversity in the leadership ranks as they are about it among students and faculty.
Even with encouraging appointments like these, however, higher education continues to present African Americans with unique and sometimes unfair challenges. I was reminded of that earlier this month, while attending the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE) in Seattle. Listening to the stories of students, faculty and staff in some of the sessions and workshops I attended, I concluded it will take more than a handful of laudable presidential appointments before the masses of people of color feel genuinely at home on predominantly White campuses. Fortunately, academia seems to attract the persevering type — an essential attribute for today’s scholars of color.
I met a lot of interesting people at NCORE as well as many Black Issues In Higher Education readers. I’m always struck by how dedicated the readers of Black Issues are. You all are so genuinely interested in and enthusiastic about the magazine, and you are never short on story ideas and praise. So on behalf of the Black Issues staff, I want to say thank you for your support. We hope you will continue to share your stories with us so that we can continue to raise the issues that are relevant to higher education’s growing community of color.
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