Shaw University officials announced Wednesday that Dr. Clarence G. Newsome, the school’s president for the past six years, would be taking a one-year paid sabbatical from his post, effective immediately. Newsome also will not be returning to the Raleigh, N.C.-based historically Black private institution that is struggling with more than $20 million in debts.
“On behalf of the board of trustees and the entire Shaw University family, we would like to thank Dr. Newsome for his service to the university. After much thought we have collectively determined that in light of the sabbatical and the need to move the university in a different direction, it is time that Shaw moves forward with new leadership,” according to a statement by university trustee board chairman Willie Gary.
While announcing the Newsome departure on Wednesday, Gary asked Shaw University employees during a campus meeting to pitch in and help the university overcome its financial difficulties. A highly successful trial attorney and Shaw alumnus, Gary spoke at length in an emotional address about Shaw’s history and its legacy as the first historically Black college founded in the South. He said the university’s 40 trustees recently pledged to contribute $50,000 each to a fundraising drive to improve the school’s finances.
“We’re going to get it done. We’re not where we want to be. We’re going to have to go through some rough times,” Gary said during the meeting, which was televised by WRAL-TV of Raleigh. “We’ve got to get into the cost-cutting business. We’ve got to cut out the waste.”
WRAL.com, the website for WRAL-TV, reported that Shaw, which enrolls 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students, has debts totaling $20 million.
“Shaw isn’t the only institution having financial struggles. Many schools are experiencing tough times,” said university spokesman Terry Spicer.
In a written statement, Newsome says he believed his departure would be “the best course of action” for him and the university. “This has been one of the most difficult decisions that I have had to make. … The time has come for me to focus on other endeavors and new opportunities. Shaw University will always be dear to me,” said Newsome in his statement.
Spicer says the board of trustees has not yet specified when it would name an interim president as well as a permanent successor to Newsome. Prior to the Shaw presidency, Newsome served as dean of the Howard University Divinity School from 1992 to 2003.
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