Morehouse College alumni to choose their president at critical moment in time

By Maynard Eaton

Joe Arrington Morehouse photo

Joseph Arrington, Morehouse National Alumni Association presidential candidate. Photo: special

Editor’s note: Morehouse College officials disputed the tone of the original column and some information it contained. This column has been updated to correct any factual inaccuracies. SaportaReport intends to publish a guest column from a Morehouse official in the near future.

Joseph Arrington has never been a politician, although his brother Marvin Arrington is a former Atlanta City Council president and mayoral candidate, and his nephew, Marvin Jr., is a current Fulton County commissioner. Now, however, at age 78, Joe Arrington is in a hotly contested campaign to be elected president of the Morehouse College National Alumni Association.

It is a position that could prove to be significant in any upcoming discussion of the future of John S. Wilson as president of Morehouse College. Morehouse’s alumni organization raises funds for the college and has a seat on the school’s Board of Trustees.

“There is a big rift between the Alumni Association and the administration at the current time,” Arrington reveals. “I understand that people are very upset with our present president and what’s going on with him. Hopefully that will be corrected. If the president needs to go, that’s what we have to do.”

Wilson is now serving a year-long contract extension of his original three-year deal to captain the highly regarded, 149-year-old historically black college for men, which has a long held tradition and mystique of producing a unique breed of proud “Morehouse Men.” His future at the college is to be decided this fall by the Board of Trustees, which includes such notables as Ambassador Andrew Young, contractor C.D. Moody and the revered Billye Aaron.

John Wilson

John Wilson

“This is may be the most important Alumni Association election I have seen because of all the dynamics since I graduated in ’78,” opines Calvin Vismale, a self-described Morehouse loyalist and registered municipal adviser who says he was baptized in theoretical finance there. “The alumni seat on the trustee board will have a crucial influence on the college leadership.”

Historically black colleges or universities, or HBCUs, are among the country’s higher educational institutions facing financial hardships. HBCUs have become a Democratic presidential campaign issue, with both Sec. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders pledging programs to save them.

Calvin Vismale

Calvin Vismale

“HBCUs are an endangered species,” laments Vismale. “Our institutions are woefully under-endowed.

“The expectations placed on Dr. Wilson – or self-imposed – have been challenging to move the needle,” Vismale said. “Morehouse can survive but is struggling to be properly endowed and to optimize our brand.”

Arrington is worried that Morehouse is in dire financial straits.

“I am running for President of the Morehouse College National Alumni Association because I am passionate about my alma mater and because historical Black colleges are in crises,” he says.

Black colleges have traditionally been a nurturing, supportive and uplifting educational environment for African American students, many of whom who may have been graduated from sub-par inner city or rural high schools. Black college graduates – such as this reporter, a Hampton University alumnus – often fondly recall and liken their time on campus as akin to a family atmosphere.

morehouse_alumni_commencement

Morehouse College alumni celebrating at commencement services. Photo: special

“At Georgia State, Georgia Tech or the University of Georgia, you don’t get the Black experience at those schools like what we receive at Morehouse College,” says Arrington. “I finished Booker T. Washington High School here in Atlanta reading on a 9th grade level. I took reading for a whole year before I finished Morehouse. And, I have a law degree from North Carolina Central University and I have a Masters degree in public health from the University of Pittsburgh. HBCUs are our heritage and I am very passionate about keeping them alive and well.”

Some alumni associations are influential entities on college campuses. Arrington says that is far from the case at Morehouse, given the current climate and changing culture.  He contends that the alumni group is nowhere near as important or influential as it could or should be.  He intends to change that.

“The Alumni Association is in real, real bad shape,” says Arrington who has traveled the country for the past several months cajoling and campaigning to win the election that is to be decided this week.

 

Maynard Eaton is an award-winning journalist and media communications professional with a career spanning more than three decades in Atlanta. Eaton, a Columbia University School of Journalism grad, has parlayed his experience as a pioneering 8-time EMMY Award winning television news reporter into positions of National Communications Director for the SCLC, Managing Editor of the SCLC National Magazine, Editor & Host of NEWSMAKERS Live and President of the Eaton Media Group.

27 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    The most financially secure local HBCU is Spellman, due in part to high alumna contribution levels. Morehouse and the other HBCUs would do well to emulate Spellman.
    I gently remind you that using apostrophes in plurals is incorrect; HBCUs is correct and HBCU’s is incorrect.Report

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  2. chefdadisi says:

    Burroughston Broch do not understand the point of your commentary with regards to this article.  Are you a Morehouse Man? Do you have a stake in this discussion?  Because although there’s merit to what you’re getting at it as little or nothing to do with this discussion.  And yes, if you’re going to spell Spelman’s name at least spell it correctly.Report

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  3. Burroughston Broch says:

    I an not a Morehouse alumnus.
    My point is relevant because alumni and alumnae should be the primary support of private institutions. Yet I often read articles suggesting taxpayer support of HBCUs. I should not have to pay for any private institution, hence my concern and stake in this discussion.
    Spelman seems the only local HBCU with secure finances, with Morehouse slipping and the rest on life support. The women support their school and the others should support their schools as well.
    If I were a Morehouse man I would want to know why Spelman is more succesful than Morehouse and what Morehouse could do to improvr.Report

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  4. chefdadisi says:

    Got it but your comments are quite assumptive to say the least. There are nuances ton what’s happening at Morehouse and alumni give back is only one of them.
    That said, this is not the focus of the vote of nonconfidence currently happening at Morehouse College. There are a slew of other issue which I won’t bring up in this forum.
    Suffice it to say there are issues of leadership and culture that can only be worked out internally.Report

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  5. ThomasLHart says:

    I am concerned about Morehouse as well. I attended from 1997-2000. I’ve had many personal and medical struggles since then. It was always my desire to someday return to finish what I started. I hope whomever is at the helm will restore Morehouse to its greatness. I think Morehouse must adapt to 21st Century. Hampton offers all their degrees online. SO does Texas State and many others are going that route. Hampton endowment has increased since this endeavor. MOrehouse needs to do the same. I hope there is a plan to address these issues.Report

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  6. TerryMrTennisAlexander says:

    Burroughston Broch I am a taxpayer also, and I would like not having to pay for benefits etc for people who stopped working before I was even born, I would not like having to pay for obese people claiming that as a disability so they don’t have to work, I would like not to have my tax money going to state schools when I work and graduated from a “Private” institution in the same state, and definitely I would like not having my tax money going out of the country to anything not American when that same tax dollar could be used on something just as or maybe more important right here in the USA. But I can’t have it all my way as a taxpayer, graduates of HBCUs pay taxes also. Let’s not forget the fact that HBCUs don’t exist anywhere else in the world I don’t think but in the good old US of A….and the good old US of A is reason that HBCUs needed to be created in the first place…so while we Americans get off by saving every thing endangered, why can’t we save HBCUs with the same energy that we attempt to save ………(you can fill in the blank) in places 99% of us will never go nevertheless heard of?Report

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  7. Burroughston Broch says:

    No HBCUs in Africa? LOL
    If you believe in supporting HBCUe then donate to them, but don’t presume to use my taxes to support them. I will decide if I wish to donate.
    And let us know when your checks are in the mail.Report

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  8. Cvismale says:

    For the record I am a supporter of President Wilson. I lobbied hard for him to become President of Morehouse College and will continue to be a supportive of him as long as he is President Morehouse College. His success is our success. Most of all I am Forever Loyal to Morehouse College.Report

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  9. Dargan From Dunwoody says:

    As a graduate of Dear Ole Morehouse, I too support President John S. Wilson and believe very strongly in his administration. The issues surrounding the amount of the schools Endowment is often confused by lay persons with the school’s Balance Sheet. Per a review of Morehouse College’s most recent audit and Tax Form 990, the Balance Sheet is closer to $300 Million while the Endowment is closer to $140 Million. Although that might seem like a large amount for a school’s Endowment, it is not what is should be but that God it is not what it used to be.Report

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  10. Burroughston Broch says:

    Dargan From Dunwoody  The endowment generates income while the other assets do not.
    As a reference, Spelman and Morehouse seem to have similar enrollments and budgets, but Spelman’s $362million endowment is much larger than Morehouse’s $130million.Report

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  11. fhsmct says:

    Burroughston Broch  Reading truly is fundamental

    The vast majority, if not all of the type articles you refer to reference state schools where, historically, Blacks pay the same taxes as anyone else yet, per capita, the state’s have documentally and verifiably long underfunded their HBCUs. 

    Tenn and Mississippi’s state HBCUs won historic/landmark lawsuits over funding and MD, to avoid same, has stepped up their funding at Coppin, Eastern Shore and Morgan over the past 16+/- years.  That those state schools have done so, so much, with less is commendable but, eventually, if I’m given VW beetle $ to compete w/ schools with BMW state funding, it’s eventually going to be a more and more difficult proposition
    . . .Report

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  12. fhsmct says:

    Burroughston Broch  Furthermore, the private HBCUs are not state funded w/ Howard Univ, in D.C. being the sole Federally funded HBCU. Now, like their predominantly white counterparts, HBCUs do compete for and receive federal grants but that’s only fair and just that they be treated the same unless, somehow, you feel the taxes Black citizens pay are valued less than the taxes Whites do . . .Report

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  13. fhsmct says:

    Burroughston Broch  one example: how does a school like SC State University, the sole state supported HBCU in SC, with annually decreasing state funding and historically less per capita funding that their predominately white peers produce more Black generals than West Point or the Citadel?

    How do more Black students attend predominately white academic institutions yet more Black degree holders are come from HBCUs? Why do more Black terminal and professional graduate degree holders hold undergrad degrees from HBCUs?Report

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  14. fhsmct says:

    Burroughston Broch  Someone like Vismale wouldn’t stand a chance at the vast, vast majority of predominately white schools yet HBCUs have historically and continually seen the diamonds in the rough and develop them (ask Vismale about Dr. Addie Mitchell!) . . .Report

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  15. fhsmct says:

    One more comment: don’t we, as a society, benefit more if we have an educated, trained populace, making the most of the available talent versus throwing, by the wayside, those who are unfortunate enough to  come from underperforming, less fortunate school systems.  To go back to my prior metaphor: we take a rough gemstone, shape and polish it: shouldn’t we do the same with our populace, no matter what the ethnocity? . . .Report

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  16. bjohnnyson says:

    I was a supporter of Dr. Franklin and was dismayed when he was dismissed and then returned to Atlanta to take a distinguished position  at Emory, who appreciated what he has to Morehouse and Atlanta, having been at the International Denomination Center there.  Doctor Wilson has no credentials to compare and does not understand the dynamics of Morehouse, the City and the State of Georgia. His overt support of President Obama has not help a school in a Red State. I have not been able to support Morehouse as before because I do not understand what Dr. Wilson was supposed to bring the school other than support from the White House that has not yet materializedReport

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  17. fhsmct says:

    @bjohnnyson  Dr Franklin was not forced out. I can think of only one Morehouse President who was ( Dr. Keith ).
    As for your lack of support: most of us, who sincerely care, donate to and support the school, no matter which man is at the helm!  AND, there is a major difference in a faculty position and a Presidency.  If you’ll do sincere research, there is a verifiably high turnover rate of college Presidencies due to the pressures and stresses of fund raising . . .Report

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  18. CynthiaFeaster says:

    Dr Wilson has brought almost nothing to Morehouse except his so called ties to the Obama administration, which also amounted to nothing, in terms of increased funding and resources for the college. I too was disgusted, shocked, dismayed and disappointed when Dr Franklin was terminated. He was an EDUCATOR and ROLE MODEL. He had a mission and vision not just for the institution but also for the STUDENTS. People who are not truly dedicated to HBCUs, and Morehouse specifically, like to recite it’s litany of successful graduates but like my son always said while attending Morehouse, “what about those of us who are here now?” Dr Franklin’s “5Ws”- we’ll read, we’ll spoken, we’ll dressed, we’ll traveled, we’ll mannered- gave our young men something to strive for and become. I cite this recent history to underscore the point that Dr Wilson in my view was always a poor fit for Morehouse and is increasingly of late, showing his disregard for the students, alumni and tuition paying get parentsome in his public statements to them (recent Crown Forum remarks) and in his recent column talking abouto Morehouse’s past, not it’s present or future. His actions beg the question- why are you hanging on to a job, in an institution that you don’t really feel committed to improving? It’s almost as if Morehouse is not an educational institution with real young people who deserve an excellent education, but rather a pawn in someone’s corporate game and Wilson is beholden only to the Board of Trutees, and not the young people who have made personal sacrifices to get to college. I truly hope that the alumni get rid of this lackluster, self-serving uncommitted individual in short order. We NEED Morehouse not just to survive, but to flourish as well.Report

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  19. wjones says:

    Burroughston Broch Dargan From Dunwoody Dr. Wilson is a strong man with an and a path to success lets relax and give support to him and our “House”.  We know times are tough for all HCBU’s Morehouse no different. Let’s hear his plan and support him ………………hey guys he’s a keeper the brother has “IT” and gets “IT”.  have any of us been there and done that?Report

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  20. wjones says:

    Burroughston Broch Yes sir i beg to differ and  I know why Spelman is much more financiallly secure than any HCBU in the Country in one name Laura Spelman the original name of Laura Rockefeller John D. Rockefellers wife. Spelman is a Rockerfeller foundation School as is another. Supported by Exxon Mobil JP Morgan Chase and others.
    I was a David Rockefeller Chase Bank Intern Years ago. He called it his grandmothers school.Report

    Reply

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