HBCU Presidential Crisis: Here’s What Can Be Done Now

by Walter Kimbrough

At the recent March meeting of the United Negro College Fund, I finally allowed myself to feel the crisis of leadership for HBCUs. I have tracked new presidents for over a decade ― when they were appointed, previous position, and age ― and clearly noticed the high turnover rate. In fact, 38 of the 78 four year HBCUs have appointed a new president since January of 2011, and, in that short time, nine of those 38 are no longer in office.

So as I read my UNCF briefing book, I noticed the number of names that had either interim or acting next to them ― eight in all. That’s 22 percent of the UNCF. Another eight of the presidents have been in office three years or less.

The shock for me was to see my seniority ranking ― 12th (as a 46 year old). And with the recent announcement that Dr. Larry L. Earvin, the highly successful 14-year president of Huston-Tillotson University, will step down next year, an era of high instability will be intensified with an era of transition due to retirements.

As I often lament to my wife about the state of affairs, she always quips, “What are you going to do about it?” Is she crazy? I mean, I think I am doing okay, but I am actively working and learning how to be an even better president.

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Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough is the president of Dillard University. He can be reached at wkimbrough@dillard.edu