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Alcorn’s President Out in Shake-up Over Finances

Mississippi’s Higher Education Commissioner announced the resignation of Alcorn State University president Dr. M. Christopher Brown at a late-afternoon press conference Thursday. The resignation, effective immediately, appeared to be the latest swipe in an administrative housecleaning that began earlier this month when Alcorn’s Chief Financial Officer resigned amid an audit into purchasing practices at the school. Another Alcorn official has also resigned, Commissioner Hank Bounds stated at the press conference.

Brown, who was named president of ASU in 2010 at the age of 38, has received wide acclaim for innovative initiatives at the university, especially in the areas of diversity and inclusion. Alcorn was reported to be the most successful university among the state’s historically Black institutions in attracting students from various racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The announcement from Bounds stunned many observers, although rumors of Brown’s possible departure had floated throughout the state for several days after reports surfaced about the state College Board’s audit into the university’s purchasing practices.

“In my opinion, he’s the most progressive and the best president Alcorn has ever had,” biology professor Dr. Leroy Johnson told Diverse within hours after the announcement. Johnson, who began teaching at Alcorn in the 1970s, added that Brown enjoyed broad support from faculty and students. “He also didn’t micromanage, but allowed his vice presidents to do their jobs. Enrollment had increased since he came and we were working on retention,” Johnson said.

Rick Shields, a 1982 economics graduate and active alumnus, also praised Brown’s tenure as president. “From everything I could see, he was doing a good job,” he said. “I believe you need a good president and a good football coach, and we had both. When I go on campus, I see new buildings going up and progress being made.”

Bounds said Norris Edney, who has previously served as interim president at Alcorn, would take over as acting president immediately.

CFO Betty Roberts’ resignation was announced Dec. 6 amid reports that an investigation was underway. Bounds stated Thursday that Jeremy Mason, special assistant for university initiatives, also had resigned, and that the board’s findings had been turned over to the state auditor and ethics commission.

Under Brown’s leadership, Alcorn was named HBCU of the Year and Brown was named HBCU president of the year in annual awards presented by the HBCU Center for Media Advocacy.

Brown is the 18th president of Alcorn, the nation’s first historically Black land-grant institution, located in Lorman, Miss. He is the former executive vice president and provost at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., and he served as dean of the College of Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He has held faculty appointments at several institutions including The Pennsylvania State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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