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Morgan State University President Set to Retire

After a challenging year riddled with accusations of questionable contracts at Morgan State University, President Earl S. Richardson has announced his retirement from the historically Black institution at the end of next year.

In an open letter, Dr. Richardson wrote, “Thanks to you, the University has made great strides during my presidency. The most notable success is undoubtedly its advancement to doctoral research university status. However, despite this success, we are at a critical juncture in the University’s history, with the issue and goal of institutional parity yet to be resolved. 

“So, although we have achieved a great deal, much is yet to be done; and we must not allow ourselves to be distracted for a moment from achieving this goal. Instead, we must continue an aggressive pursuit of the goal of making Morgan State University one of the very best institutions in the state,” the letter stated.

Richardson, the 11th president of the Baltimore, Md., institution, is credited with strengthening academic programs, improving fiscal management, stabilizing student enrollment, accelerating fund-raising efforts and renovating the university’s physical plant. To his credit, the university now enjoys modern, state-of-the-art facilities resulting from more than $500 million in capital improvements. 

However, it is part of that success that has come in question as part of a feud about a public records request. Richardson is reported to have refused to show his employment contract to state Del. Galen Clagett, a Frederick County Democrat on a panel that oversees Morgan’s budget. According to the Baltimore Sun, Richardson has suggested that Clagett’s motives were “discriminatory or retaliatory.”

The controversy peaked when Clagett requested public contracts for the university. A legislative audit released this year found multiple managerial mistakes relating to building contracts, which led to an investigation by the attorney general’s office.  

The university released a statement on its web site addressing the issue: “The University has been advised that a recent legislative audit revealed various deficiencies in the University’s management and oversight of certain capital improvement projects. It appears the university did not comply with state procurement regulations by failing to obtain the appropriate approvals prior to undertaking certain campus improvements.

The university has instituted internal controls to improve capital program operations, including establishing an oversight committee to review construction projects and ensure compliance with state guidelines, according to the statement. The situation  resulted in the director of design and construction resigning and the university is looking to make some key hires to implement its new procedures.

Tributes from state and city leaders have poured in acknowledging Richardson’s contributions as a leader. His retirement is effective December 31, 2009, when he would have served 25 years.

“Dr. Richardson has provided the university with outstanding leadership in his two-and-a-half decades as president,” said Dallas R. Evans, chairman of the Morgan State University Board of Regents, in a letter. “During his tenure, Morgan experienced unprecedented growth and development, in the growth of programs, expansion of physical facilities on the campus and improvements in enrollment numbers as well as in the quality of students admitted. His departure is truly the end of an era at Morgan.”

Under Richardson, the university boasts an increase in the number of students and higher GPAs and SAT scores at a rate exceeding other baccalaureate-granting institutions in the state. Morgan has added academic programs, including baccalaureate programs in civil, electrical and industrial engineering; hospitality management and finance; masters programs in teacher education and engineering; and doctoral programs in engineering, history, mathematics education and science education.

Morgan alumni and supporters had worked to block competing academic programs at nearby universities because that duplication promoted racial segregation. Morgan and its allies in Annapolis were unable to overturn a recent decision by the Maryland Higher Education Commission to let Towson University grant master’s degrees in business administration.

A native of Maryland, Richardson earned his bachelor’s degree in social science from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, a master’s and a doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

The university’s regents will consider Richardson’s retirement at their November board meeting and start planning a search for his successor.

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