A successful, veteran higher-education executive who has been characterized by peers as among a group of “presidents-for-rent” has retired for the fifth time in his career, saying he already has plans to continue working in higher education.
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, the financially troubled state institution facing a major and growing deficit and the risk of losing its accreditation at the end of the year, says Dr. Frank Pogue Jr., is “retiring again,” having served as interim president of the institution since November 2014.
Pogue, 78, was recruited from retirement three years ago to help stabilize Cheyney, the state’s only public historically Black college. It has been reeling in red ink for several years, having been among more than a dozen Pennsylvania institutions to experience dramatic losses in enrollment and other financial support since the nation’s economy began taking a nosedive in the late 1990’s. The institution’s deficit is conservatively estimated at exceeding $30 million.
Pogue also had experience in successfully managing a state institution. He was hired in 1996 from the State University of New York (SUNY) System where he had been an administrator for more than 20 years, as the first Black president of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, one of the state’s historically White universities in rural Western Pennsylvania. When he retired as president in 2007, Edinboro was at the top of its game and had several endowments and a student center named in his honor.
That history came to the minds of Pennsylvania state leaders when they learned Pogue had again retired after a brief stint as president of Grambling State University in Louisiana and they were looking for fresh temporary leadership for Cheyney.
“I was brought in to stabilize the institution and keep it moving forward,” Pogue said in a brief phone interview Wednesday. The institution continues to lose money, Pogue says, noting he and state officials knew when he was coming in the door that issue could not be fully resolved in a few years.
“You can’t grow your way out of the deficit,” Pogue said, noting bolder efforts will be needed and forthcoming to right the ship.
His exit is timely, Pogue said, as he has spent his time getting Cheyney the attention it needs from state leadership at all levels to navigate the rough waters still ahead.
“For the first time, I’ve seen entities and people coming together to support the institution,” said Pogue, noting the state board of higher education’s decision this spring to loan Cheyney $8 million to meet its obligations for the rest of the fiscal year ending June 30.
“The right people are talking with each other,” said Pogue, regardless of what part of the state they are from, political party or race. “They want to see this institution survive,” he said, noting Cheyney is among the nation’s first historically Black institutions of higher education.
Also, he noted, his successor, retired Pennsylvania insurance executive Aaron A. Walton, is widely known and well respected across the state. Walton yesterday resigned effective immediately as vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and was immediately appointed Pogue’s successor as interim president of Cheyney.
Pogue said he is leaving Walton with a good map of the road ahead, one that evolved since he (Pogue) came to the university and one Walton has seen from his perch as a higher educator governor. Rather than leaving Walton a traditional “transition” letter to a successor, Pogue said Walton knows what the institution needs.
“They (Cheyney and most of the state’s universities) are having to compete in ways they have never had to compete,” said Pogue, citing falling revenues and enrollments across the state.
He said that he feels Walton is equipped for the challenge, an experienced business man with decades of involvement in Pennsylvania higher education activities. The university’s task force for the future is expected to issue its “new model for Cheyney” later this month, Pogue said, adding that it should be helpful.
As for his retirement, Pogue spent most of his final day plowing through paperwork and administrative decisions. No time for fishing, he said. He heads to Washington, D.C., in a few days for work with one of his institutional leadership efforts, then on to more institutional consultancies.