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Monday, May 07, 2007

Morehouse president leaves strong financial legacy

Walter Massey was a shy, black boy from Hattiesburg, Miss., when he arrived as a 16-year-old freshman at Morehouse College.
Nearly 40 years later, he returned to change the school that changed him. He served as Morehouse's president for 12 years but will step down in June.

During his tenure, a fund-raising campaign brought in $119 million in three years, and he helped the school land the collection of more than 7,000 handwritten notes, letters and sermons by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- the most famous alumnus of Morehouse, the nation's only historically black all-male college.

After presiding over his final commencement May 20, Massey, 69, and his wife, Shirley, will move to Chicago.

Robert Franklin -- an Emory University professor and former president of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta -- has been named Morehouse's 10th president.

Massey became a Morehouse student almost by chance.

As the story goes, he had driven a group of students to take a test for early admission. ''When I got there, they said, 'As long as you're here, you might as well take the test, too','' Massey recalled. ''It was life-changing, to say the least.''

He developed confidence at the school. ''There was this sense that there was certain kinds of behavior you were expected to adhere to,'' said Massey, whose bachelor's degree is in physics and math. ''And it gave us all the sense that as a Morehouse student, you would be able to compete with anybody in the world.''

As he leaves, Massey has much to be proud of. Two Marshall scholars graduated under his watch. Morehouse also produced two Rhodes scholars. All of Morehouse's tenured faculty now hold doctorates.

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