FAMU President Recommended to Head Black College Advocacy GroupBy David Hefner
SILVER SPRING, Md.Less than a month after his resignation as president of Florida A&M University, Dr. Frederick Humphries has been recommended to lead the nation’s foremost advocacy group for Black colleges and universities.Humphries has been recommended to become president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), the leading lobbying group on Capitol Hill for 118 historically and predominantly Black colleges and universities. Humphries’ resignation from FAMU is effective in June.Dr. Clinton Bristow Jr., chair of a council representing 18 public and historically Black land-grant institutions including FAMU, made the recommendation to NAFEO’s presidential search committee.NAFEO President Dr. Henry Ponder, former president of Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., recently resigned, also effective in June. The search committee hopes to name a new president in May.“Although unfortunate for FAMU, (Humphries’ resignation) presents NAFEO with a remarkable opportunity to attract one of the most dynamic leaders in higher education today,” Bristow, president of Mississippi’s Alcorn State University, wrote in a Feb. 20 letter to Dr. W. Clinton Pettus, chair of the NAFEO search committee.“For more than 30 years, Fred has proven to be a whirlwind of ideas, information and activity that has transformed HBCUs in ways that will leave a mark on the consciousness of our time.”Amid uncertainty regarding the Bush administration’s fiscal policy toward HBCUs and the shrinking of state appropriations to Black schools, a whirlwind is perhaps what NAFEO needs. Humphries’ aggressive, in-your-face and at times unrelenting advocacy would certainly be a departure from Ponder’s more reserved style. Humphries could be reached for comment.At FAMU, Humphries more than doubled the school’s enrollment since 1985 and tied with Harvard University this year as the No. 1 recruiter of National Achievement Scholars, America’s brightest Black high school students. In 1997, FAMU was named “College of the Year” by Time/Princeton Review and Black Issues in Higher Education featured FAMU as the nation’s No. 1 producer of African American baccalaureates. Most recently, Humphries led a charge to re-establish the FAMU College of Law, which the Florida Legislature closed more than 30 years ago (see story, page 27). “We’re looking for a person who knows how to deal with the various branches of government in terms of lobbying,” says Pettus, president of Pennsylvania’s Cheney University. “There are some legislations that are occurring that could be beneficial or harmful to Black colleges and universities, as well as people of color.”Ponder also emphasized the importance of lobbying when asked what NAFEO needs in a new president. “I think we just have to keep going to the government so they do right by our institutions,” he said. That (lobbying government) isn’t going away.” When reached by telephone, Bristow said the next NAFEO president must be an advocate for public universities. Such schools, he says, are facing decreasing budgets due to cutbacks by state legislatures.“Dr. Humphries certainly is a person that would be very very willing to be a public university advocate, as well as an advocate for private and two-year schools,” Bristow says.When asked whether he thought Ponder had not adequately served public HBCUs, Bristow said, “I am not saying that.” Ponder has been president of two private Black schools — Fisk and Benedict College in Columbia, S.C. — while Humphries has been president of two public schools — Tennessee State University and FAMU. Bristow says he has not spoken with Humphries or Pettus about the recommendation. But it isn’t at all clear whether Humphries will be offered the $180,000-$200,000-a-year job, or if he will accept it if offered. Other well-respected educators have been recommended, Pettus said, refusing to give names. And Humphries not only has a good retirement package with the state of Florida, but he is expected to hold a position based at FAMU’s law school in Orlando, reportedly making approximately $140,000 a year.
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