Ivory V. Nelson, who as president led Lincoln University out of debt and spearheaded a building boom that is transforming the nation's oldest historically black college, will retire in June.
Nelson, 76, guided Lincoln during a critical time in its history, when university officials decided to relinquish majority control of the Barnes Foundation board of directors, leading to the art collection's controversial move from the college to Philadelphia. The decision was seen by some as the catalyst behind the release of millions of dollars in state funds to the school.
Nelson joined Lincoln in 1999 after serving in leadership posts at Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University, and Central Washington State University. When he arrived at Lincoln, the infrastructure and many buildings were rundown, and the school was $15 million in debt.
In January 2000, the school's main electrical line had ruptured, so, with no power on campus, he had to send the 1,500 students home for three weeks. "We couldn't educate them, feed them, take care of them," Nelson said. "Our infrastructure had failed and we couldn't deliver."
During his presidency, Nelson has dealt with a faculty strike, controversies over a fitness course required for some students, and anti-Israel statements made by a tenured professor.
Since 2005, the school has built a $22 million residence hall, a new cultural center equipped with an art gallery, computer labs, and a 1,049-seat auditorium; a $40 million science and technology center (which will be renamed in Nelson's honor); and a newly renovated student union and library.
Due for completion in 2012 are a wellness center and athletic complex, capping off a $325 million campus makeover.
The school's enrollment, also, has grown from 2,000 in the 1999-2000 school year to 2,361.
A search committee has been formed to look for a new president.
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