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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

LeMoyne-Owen gets offer of bailout, with strings

Donor insists on new leadership

An 11th-hour, anonymous donor's pledge of $2.5 million will help LeMoyne-Owen College meet an end-of-the-month deadline to cover operating expenses.

But the gift comes with a catch: With exceptions, the school's trustees, including Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton and board chairman Robert Lipscomb, must step down.

"We must restore confidence in the minds of the corporations, foundations and citizens that the mission of this college is still legitimate," Herenton said during a press conference Friday.

If the trustees agree to step aside, the donor will give the cash-strapped school $1.5 million by June 30 and an additional $1 million in a matching challenge grant, Herenton said.

Trustees who hold seats specially designated for alumni and those representing churches won't be asked to leave.

The 30-plus members of the board, who have been fractured over the past several years, have not officially been asked to resign. Last week, during a specially called meeting, Herenton and other trustees agreed they needed to make some drastic changes if they are to move forward, Lipscomb said.

The donation is under-the-wire temporary relief for the city's only historically black college, which, over the past 10 years, has faced a revolving door of presidents, mounting debt, dwindling enrollment and difficulty securing funds. The school has produced an accomplished class of black leaders, including Herenton and civil rights pioneer Benjamin Hooks.

However, that legacy has not translated into financial solvency.

In December, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the region's accrediting body, placed LeMoyne-Owen on "probation with good cause" for continued financial problems. This year the school, supporters and the faith community ramped up fund-raising efforts including an event slated for Sunday afternoon on the school's grounds.

Herenton even offered to box Joe Frazier to raise money for the school. The former heavyweight champion has not responded.

Still, with less than a week before an end of the month deadline to pay $1 million to cover operating expenses, the school had raised only half that amount.

Last week school president James Wingate resigned, citing in part frustration over sluggish corporate contributions and the inability to better chip away at the school's $6 million debt. New trustees will face the task of resolving the remaining debt and finding Wingate's replacement.

LeMoyne-Owen's problems reflect a segment of the nation's historically black colleges and universities that are struggling to remain open. Low enrollment, financial woes and academic accreditation issues have all taken a toll on many of these schools that were created after the Civil War to educate freed slaves

Herenton choked back sobs and dabbed at tears as he recounted how the school provided him with academic opportunities unavailable to blacks at the city's then racially segregated colleges and universities. Several others in the audience, including Lipscomb, joined Herenton in the emotional homily.

For his part, Hooks saw symbolism in the fact that the room where the anonymous donation was announced was the same room officials used to post the names of students who were behind on their tuition payments. Back then tuition was just over $100, more than 10 times what most neighborhood residents made in a week, Hooks said.

"I'd hide around the corner and sneak to see if my name was up there," Hooks said. "Inevitably it was because my father had not paid the check."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Edward Waters Regains Accreditation

Edward Waters College n Jacksonville, FL, has regained full accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The school has been fighting to keeps its accreditation for a year, and now things are looking much better for the school. College administrators are now focusing their efforts on fundraising and getting the school back on track financially.

After spending a year under a "warning status" with the Southern Association of colleges and schools (SACS), EWC President Dr. Oswald Bronson was able to share some good news at a staff appreciation gathering; the warning has been lifted.

That means students at the school who mostly rely on financial aid won't have to worry about losing that funding or be forced to get an education elsewhere.

EWC had sent documents to SACS that were plagiarized, putting the school's accreditation in jeopardy. The dispute landed both sides in federal court and EWC was granted a second chance to clean up its act, which included firing some administrators.

"We are pleased to say we have checks and balances in place with a new registrar to make certain all of our documents meet the principles of integrity," says Bronson.

Now that the accreditation process is cleared up, finances are the key. The college’s staff has already made $52,000 in pledges to support the school's fundraising campaign, and today EWC President Dr. Oswald Bronson announced he'll personally match that amount.

"We want to see the institution embraced in a larger way by the business and finance community,” says EWC Board Chairman Bishop Mckinley Young. “We want to see more students come to the institution."

EWC enrollment over the last year dropped from 1,200 to 750 last semester. But now that the school is in good standing, the school expects those numbers to rise in the fall.

Monday, June 12, 2006

WSSU's Martin taking new UNC job

The University of North Carolina board of governors approved the appointment of Harold Martin yesterday as the top academic officer for the 16-campus UNC system.

Martin, the chancellor of Winston-Salem State University, is scheduled to start the new job July 17.

Martin's title will be senior vice president for academic affairs. He will assist Bowles and the board of governors on policy, and he will advise leaders of the state's 16 public universities.

Among his priorities, he said, will be making higher education more accessible, increasing graduation rates and improving the faculty at each university. He gave few specifics but said that he would be guided by forthcoming reviews of each university's mission.

"I think it will be a nonconfrontational kind of debate that will force each chancellor and board of trustees to look at not only the needs of their region but also at the strengths of each institution," said Martin, who has a doctorate in electrical engineering.

Bowles, who does not have a doctorate, said he would look to Martin for leadership on shaping the priorities for each university.

"He will stand side-by-side with me," Bowles said.

Martin, who became chancellor in January 2000, said that an interim chancellor for Winston-Salem State could be named in as soon as three weeks. The person would likely come from within the UNC system, he said.

"We are narrowing the discussion," he said.

Kevin Myatt, the chairman of the WSSU board of trustees, said he did not know when a permanent chancellor might be chosen. But he said that Martin would leave the university in a strong position for his successor.

"When an architect comes in and designs a building, the building remains standing even when the architect leaves. That is what is happening here," Myatt said. "Winston-Salem State is on a roll, and that roll will continue."

Enrollment at Winston-Salem State was slightly under 3,000 students when Martin arrived, and it is expected to reach 6,300 this fall. The school is also making the transition to a Division I athletics program, and it is in the midst of a $35 million fundraising campaign.

WSSU expects at least 100 to 150 applicants for the Chancellors job.

"Harold has left the school in the best shape - financially, academically - that it's ever been in. Ever," Davis said. "What that's going to allow us to do is bring in a top-flight new chancellor."

Martin said he was tempted by the open chancellor's job at N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro, where he received his bachelor's and master's degrees and held several academic and administrative positions, and by the idea of staying at Winston-Salem State.

"While they were all exceptional opportunities," he said, "I felt honestly that ... the senior vice presidency and the opportunity to work with Erskine provide just exceptional opportunities to me and the chance to have a broader impact."

A native of Winston-Salem, Martin has been active in the community as a board member for several groups. He has also been chairman of a task force on community health-care access.

Martin, 54, said he's still figuring out how his new position will affect his community involvement. He said he knows that he won't have time for some things - such as the presidency of the Rotary Club of Winston-Salem, which he was scheduled to assume July 1 - but that he would continue to be involved in less demanding roles.

The UNC system will take priority, he said.

"To compromise on those important responsibilities would be difficult," Martin said.

Martin's salary will be $290,000 his first year. His current salary is $199,993.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Shaw plans to expand science building

Inside Shaw University's Roberts Science Building, research is taken seriously.

Data detailing racial disparities in elder care is fodder for a four-foot hallway banner. And all over the building, signs with requests such as "Testing, Quiet Please," are stuck to classroom doors. But the four-story science building isn't big enough to accommodate all of Shaw's scientific ambitions.

This week, Shaw won Raleigh Planning Commission support for an addition to Roberts Hall that will add just over 30,000 square feet to the building. The Raleigh City Council will consider the Roberts Building expansion at its June 6 meeting.

If approved, the $4.3 million federal-grant funded expansion will house a library, some classroom and laboratory space and provide office space for the more than 20 scientists recruited to conduct research examining the social and medical roots of disease, said Daniel Howard, principal investigator and director at Shaw University's Institute for Health, Social and Community Research.

The expansion is part of a larger university effort to become a leading force in research that explores the ways and reasons that some conditions, such as diabetes, and phenomenon, such as infant deaths, disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities. To get there, Shaw has made a series of changes that will be felt far beyond its campus .

In February, the school formed an institutional review board, becoming one of the smallest colleges in the nation with the capacity to evaluate and approve research projects that involve human subjects.

Last March, the school announced plans to build a child development center near its main campus, where the speech, hearing and cognitive skills of young children will be tested. It will serve as a research and training facility for Shaw faculty, and students and preschool teachers will be certified there. Construction is expected to be complete in 2007.

But as the university expands its physical and scientific footprint, people who live near Shaw University have experienced some growing pains.

After the child development center was announced, some area residents complained that it did not fit with an area redevelopment plan. The center ultimately gained some community support.