Morris Brown Taps New High-Profile Board of Corporate Leaders

Morris Brown has addressed several issues that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools cited when it yanked the college’s accreditation in 2002. But Morris Brown still has to show that it’s fiscally stable and that’s where many of the school’s new trustees, including executives who can attract corporate dollars, come in.

Morris Brown College is pinning its hopes and its future on a new board of trustees.

The historically Black college in Atlanta lost its accreditation five years ago amidst a financial scandal that eventually led to the conviction of the school’s former president Dolores Cross and her financial aid director on federal fraud charges in 2004.

In the last 12 to 14 months, the school has addressed several issues that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools cited when it yanked the college’s accreditation in 2002, including shoddy record keeping and a shortage of professors with advanced degrees. But Morris Brown still has to show that it’s fiscally stable and that’s where many of the school’s new trustees come in, said the school’s interim president, Dr. Stanley Pritchett.

College officials hope to re-apply for accreditation by the end of this year, a lengthy process that would require the school to be debt free.

“All of our audits are up-to-date and we’re in the process of cleaning up our balance sheets and making sure that we have all the fiscal procedures in place to move ahead (with re-accreditation),” said Pritchett, who was named to his interim position in July. To that end, the school announced this month that it is strengthening its 24-member board of trustees by adding nationally ranked academic leaders as well as business executives who can attract corporate dollars and long-term revenue streams to the campus, Pritchett said.

The new trustees include: Darryl Berry, co-owner, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Famous Recipes Company, owner of Mrs. Winner’s Chicken and Biscuits restaurants; Dr. Alan Curtis, president of the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation in Washington, D.C.; Dr. Susan Schurman, immediate past president of the National Labor College; Barry Sample, president and chief executive officer of Instructional Systems, Inc. and former deputy New York  state controller; Dr. Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich, professor of comparative research methods and senior seminar at the National Labor College and formerly with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies; and William “Sonny” Walker, formerly vice president of the National Alliance of Businesses and a presidential appointee as director of the United States Community Service Administration. 

In the past, the perception has been that the school’s board of trustees was too heavily comprised of members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which helped found the college in 1881. While that may have been true many years ago, it’s not true now, trustees and college officials say.

“We needed trustees who could bring a sense of diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender and philanthropy as well as higher education experience,” said George Hopkins, a 1971 alumni of the college, formerly one of the highest ranking African Americans at Novartis Pharmaceuticals and also one of Morris Brown’s newly named trustees.

“The new trustees aren’t clouded by Atlanta politics at the school that may have played a role in the past,” he said. “We’re trying to demonstrate to the corporate community that Morris Brown is trying to do things differently. We’re changing how we handle things and show that we can manage money responsibly.

“We don’t want to operate in an un-accredited mode,” Hopkins added. “We want to be on equal footing with other colleges and universities.

–  Tracie Powell

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