Three HBCU Presidents Announce Retirements - Higher Education
Higher Education News and Jobs

Three HBCU Presidents Announce Retirements


by Reginald Stuart


Dr. Dianne Boardley Suber, president of St. Augustine’s University, is one of three HBCU presidents that have resigned within a two-week span.

Dr. Dianne Boardley Suber, president of St. Augustine’s University, is one of three HBCU presidents that have resigned within a two-week span.

The Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU) community, which has been rocked by leadership turbulence for much of the past three years, was jolted again last week when two HBCU presidents surprised their respective institutions with announcements they plan to leave their posts in a matter of weeks.

Late Friday afternoon, Dr. Dianne Boardley Suber, president of St. Augustine’s University, announced she was “retiring” at the end of May, ending a 14-year stint as chief executive of the private, liberal arts institution.

At Grambling State University, President Frank G. Pogue Jr. announced he was leaving June 30, ending a four and a half year stint with the state-controlled institution that has seen its state support cut by more than 50 percent over the last six years.

Their departures came just two weeks after Dr. Donald Reaves, chancellor of Winston-Salem State University, announced he will step down on December 31 after seven years.

Suber’s decision to depart, just as she was starting to make plans to celebrate her 15th year as president in December, came at the end of a turbulent behind-the-scenes battle in recent weeks with several of her top aides.

The differences, most of them centered on how best to handle the university’s deteriorating financial condition, resulted in Suber putting the university provost on leave several weeks ago and, earlier last week, firing the vice president for business and finance. Other staffers reassigned or departed, after disagreeing with Suber over the pace and breadth of budget cuts they felt were urgently needed.

  Congressional Black Caucus Forum Highlights Achievement Gap Strategies

“Sometimes we tend to ‘stay too long at the fair,’” Suber said in her retirement statement. “More often, we stay just long enough.”

On Thursday, in a statement explaining the “changes” to the St. Augustine’s Executive Management Team, Suber said the university was “at a critical juncture…”

“…We need to be vigilant in assuring that every administrator on the team shares both the mission and the vision of the University,” she said. “In these times of extreme financial challenges, and given the current political landscape of our country, that sometimes means putting our personal philosophies on a back burner and supporting practices that strengthen the infrastructure of the University over the long haul.”

That statement was issued as word spread throughout the university community that it was the vice president for business and finance who sent an audit report to the university’s board, asserting that the president was not following the university plan and that her actions were not improving the institution’s precarious financial condition.

Similar to other HBCUs that have been dealing with financial difficulties and tension between their board of trustees and university president, for St. Augustine’s, a dramatic and sudden fall in income played a major role in the  concern over the institution’s future. Like other HBCUs, St. Augustine’s had a number of students enrolled due to the federal government’s Parent PLUS Loan program (PPL).

After the Department of Education made what it called “technical” changes to the PPL criteria in 2012, St. Augustine’s lost 238 students due to their inability to qualify for PPL aid under the new requirements, according to Suber in an earlier interview with Diverse.

  Higher Education’s Tough Economic Times Affect Recruitment, Studies Say

Suber nor other St. Augustine’s officials could be reached for additional comment. The university plans to hold a news conference on Monday, during which its board chairman will discuss the institution’s plans in light of Suber’s departure.

At Grambling, sources familiar with Pogue’s surprise decision to leave before his five-year contract expired in December say he had begun to feel the work he had done since coming to the university in 2009 was getting overshadowed by criticism over “tough” decisions he made to deal with problems he inherited and found during the course of his service.

For three years before Pogue’s arrival, Grambling received criticism from the state’s Legislative Audit Office over the university’s business practices. Sources say Pogue resolved the matter and noted that the university has had a clean audit from the state for three years in a row. Pogue is also credited with imposing minimal pain on the overall institution and its employees during the series of budget cuts required as state aid dwindled.

The significance of Pogue’s achievements began to get overshadowed in recent months as his decision to dismiss Grambling football legend and head coach Doug William triggered a major backlash from Gramblinites.

A “strike” last fall by Grambling’s football team, complaining about facility and travel conditions, added to Pogue’s focus being distracted from issues significant to the core mission of the institution.

Despite receiving much praise from leaders of the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System and having the support of most university advisers, Pogue felt he had done all he could for the institution.

  White House Honors 11 Champions of Change from HBCUs

“He came at a time when there was great instability at Grambling,” said university system President Sandra Woodley to The Advocate, the daily morning paper in Baton Rouge. “He gave up five years of his retirement to put his energies into Grambling,” she added, noting she felt he had made a positive difference at Grambling.

Woodley said there was no timetable set for finding a president for the 5,000-student institution.

Augustine’s, Grambling and Winston-Salem State have now joined a group of HBCUs currently on the hunt for presidents, including Howard, Tuskegee and Norfolk State universities. In addition to FAMU, Fisk, and North Carolina Central universities, presidential vacancies at more than half a dozen other HBCUs have been filled in the past two years.

New Report Offers Best Financial Practices for Colleges’ Roles in Student Success College affordability and a clear understanding of financial aid are among the biggest challenges low-income students pursuing a higher education face. Education experts say that colleges and universities can play a larger role in increasing student ...
Colleges Wrestle with Issue of Using Students’ Fees for Controversial Speakers Katherine Kerwin didn’t like to see a portion of the student fees she pays being spent to bring conservative speaker Ben Shapiro to the University of Wisconsin. Kerwin didn’t agree with Shapiro’s criticism of what he said were attempts to chill fr...
Pennsylvania Education Leader Going Extra Mile for Diversity  Long bike rides are an annual tradition for Dr. John Sygielski, who spent several weeks biking from New Orleans to Nashville this summer, traveling along the Natchez Trace Parkway and passing through Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Along the w...
As Tax Plan Rolls Out, Activists Stake Claim for Diversity WASHINGTON — On the same day that House Republicans rolled out a sweeping new tax plan that critics say favors the rich at the expense of the poor, Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network rolled into town Thursday in an effort to convert its activ...
Semantic Tags:

One Response to Three HBCU Presidents Announce Retirements

  1. Well, as I have stated in the past, if an incoming chancellor does not have a fundamental understanding of how “black families” operate, he or she faces a tough transition into the role of leadership at an HBCU. This seems to be a trend among those recent presidents who are retiring due to in-house fighting. I would surmise that these in-house fights are the very same triggering episodes of their own family of origin issues, for whom, most of which, decide they can no longer fight the good fight. If a person grew up rigidly controlled, they will rigidly control others. The art of compromise at an HBCU probably requires a person who successfully navigated the vicissitudes of their own family of orgin stuff and managed to get the best out of family members who were not the easiest of kin folk to get along with. The best leader has always been the best servant… that fundamental understanding of how black families operate is paramount for anyone who decides to lead an HBCU.

    Len Sturdivant
    April 7, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *