Morehouse College – a true Atlanta story – is on the rebound

By Guest Columnist JOHN S. WILSON, president of Morehouse College

A March 15, 2016 article in SaportaReport about the Morehouse College National Alumni Association presidential elections contained inaccuracies and misinformation about Morehouse College.

We appreciate SaportaReport for making corrections to that story, and we acknowledge that even the best institutions can be hurt by misinformation and disinformation.

John Wilson

John S. Wilson, president of Morehouse College

But there remains a need for the metro Atlanta community to know directly from us where this great college really stands.

It is true that when I arrived to serve as president in January 2013, Morehouse had not yet recovered from the nation’s economic downturn. The key measures of institutional health were all trending negatively, from enrollment to endowment to advancement. Yet, we have halted and reversed many of these and other metrics.

Morehouse is getting stronger. That is important, because I often remind our alumni and friends that it is imperative that we maintain a high “signal–to-noise ratio.” That is, the signal of our virtues must remain louder than the noise of our vices.

Morehouse College has produced world-class, global leaders, but the Morehouse story is, at its heart, an Atlanta story.

Atlanta became the birthplace of the idea of a superior education for African Americans when John Hope, Morehouse’s first African-American president, and Henry Lyman Morehouse both objected to Booker T. Washington’s theory of an exclusively vocational or industrial training for blacks.

Instead, in 1896, they argued that “a talented tenth” ought to be provided a liberal arts education for leadership development, and their singular institutional expression of that theory was Morehouse College.

Morehouse College

Graves Hall at Morehouse College (Special: Morehouse College)

Morehouse’s evolution has since influenced the evolution of Atlanta, something we do not take lightly in a city that has continually been on the forefront of change. The hallowed halls of Morehouse nurtured one of the world’s greatest leaders, Atlanta native Martin Luther King, Jr.

We produced the city’s first African-American mayor, Maynard Jackson, and Georgia’s first African-American legislator after the end of Reconstruction, Leroy Johnson.

More recently, Morehouse produced filmmaker, Spike Lee, the nation’s Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, and technology titan, Paul Judge.

Not only has Morehouse produced multiple noteworthy leaders for the nation’s pulpits, businesses, classrooms and hospitals, but it has, over time, produced over 50 college presidents. The term, “Morehouse man,” is nearly synonymous with the word “leadership.”

Among our key sayings on campus is this quote from Mark Twain: “the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Numerous young men have come to our campus and discovered their true identity and calling in life. They had their “second day” at Morehouse College.

Prince Abudu is the most recent example of a young man who came to Morehouse and discovered who he is and why he is on this earth.

John Wilson

Morehouse President John Wilson (Special)

A graduating senior, Prince was educated at a school for orphans and promising students in Zimbabwe, where he worked hard and earned the Andrew Young International Scholarship that brought him to Morehouse. He fully embraced the Morehouse values of demonstrating acuity, practicing integrity, exhibiting agency, committing to brotherhood and leading a consequential life. In the past four years, he excelled in the classroom, helped his fellow classmates as a tutor, and co-founded an intercontinental mentorship program. His work earned him the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship (the College’s fourth such recipient), and he will further his computer science studies at Oxford University.

In February 2017, we will celebrate our 150th anniversary as an institution, having spent 138 of those years here in Atlanta. Our business has been transformation. And there is more that we can do for Atlanta.

Half of the black males in this country fail to graduate from high school on time, but in Atlanta, the dropout rate exceeds 60 percent. That partially explains why there are three times as many black males incarcerated in Georgia than there are white males. If properly resourced, Morehouse can meaningfully change those data, locally and nationally.

Morehouse continues to embrace its place as an engaged partner in producing strong, innovative leaders for the city, nation and world. This has been central to the Morehouse mission and we intend to ensure that this commitment continues and grows.

That can only happen with the strong support of the Atlanta business and philanthropic communities. And we look forward to continuing the transformational work that has become the hallmark of Morehouse College.

36 comments
Bthomas65
Bthomas65

It sounds as if a few are implying that if individuals are not giving to their alma mater that they should not have an opinion in the svhool's direction. Most giving at any institution of higher learning comes from the few. Also the leadership plays a MAJOR role in how alumni and the philanthropic community feel about giving to any institution. The way dissatisfied graduates show their dissatisfaction is by donating to other institutions or passions (graduate programs etc). This also takes place at ALL other institutions. Change is voiced through the pocket. John Wilson has spent more time fighting and alienating those of us who have not only have tried to help but have given substantial annual donations in the past. He lacks the leadership skill required to mobilize and successfully achieve his vision. His performance as President has been poor. Compare the trend data before and during his tenure. Do not make excuses for this performance. He was hired to solve problems. That is why he is the highest paid and ranking officer at the college. He was hired as president to solve problems but he continuously seems to be the problem. So please do not questions how others support the college. "What have you done lately?" Many of us have and are now fed up. Many parents students and grads have attempted engagement to only be shut out and down by our current president. This is how dissatisfaction looks. A House Divided. Unification will only be achieved through a proper change in leadership.

fhsmct
fhsmct



My personal vehicles all have Morehouse tags (Jeep, sedan and motorcycle), both 4 wheelers have Morehouse tag frames& decals in the rear window and the bike has the Morehouse crest on the center rear of the passenger back rest.  There's  a Morehouse decal on the vestibule window over the front door/entrance to my home and I keep all the young male kids on my street in Morehouse paraphernalia (caps, t- & sweat shirts and pamphlets) as well as the sons of several other friends .  .  .

Bthomas65
Bthomas65

I don't know about you but I have to ensure that leadership is effectively using MY money wisely. And I like many others (as apparent by alumni donations) have no faith in this leader. So I support black male scholarships to other colleges and universities. Just my thoughts! Continue with yours.

Bthomas65
Bthomas65

You know that Howard FAMU Grambling etc. have grad programs right? It doesn't mean that money funnels to majority programs. This is not a personality issue. I have been looking for the successes of the past 3-4 years. Please provide facts and hard evidence that the college is trending in the right direction. I want any President of Morehouse to succeed, even Wilson. I am looking at this just as I look at my business. Are we going to wait until the trend line flatlines before we acknowledge a problem. Remember, Wilson made many unsolicitated promises we he arrived of how he can pull this together. How he could leverage relationships and raise BILLIONS. This is an objective criticism of performance. I am looking to be convinced otherwise. I will provide a mea culpa if the trends are not negative. What would you do if it were your business and had to make leadership decisions based on performance?

fhsmct
fhsmct

@Bthomas65  What Have I Done Lately? The same I do every year: make a fiscal donation, sometimes more than one; challenge other alums to joint the NAA and become active (I've been a Life member for many years); attend & support Homecoming almost every year (have only missed 5 since graduating in 1980: 3 due to military obligations and 2 due to family funerals), just to name a few.  I refuse to contribute to the down fall of the school over a personality issue and I dang sure am not going to make a donation to some grad school that has an endowment far greater than ours when our  school and students are in much greater need of the support (ie: not going to cut off my nose to spite my face!)


Again, John, sr administrators and the Boards ability(s) to raise $$ is greatly aided when they can state that a high percentage of alums give versus a few give mightily! That's a simple, unchanging reality of fund raising . . .

fhsmct
fhsmct

@Bthomas65  Grambling is not close to being a good example as they are on serious fiscal life support these days! . . .

fhsmct
fhsmct

As a 4th (yes 4th!) Generation Morehouse Man, I challenge all the complainers to "Put Up or Shut Up"!  College's in general , across this land are facing fiscal issues and Morehouse is no different. As the grandson of a former college Sr administrator and the cousin of a former HBCU President, I know how difficult fund raising is even in the best of times.  When John, my former schoolmate, hits the fund raising trail, one of the major questions asked of him is not how much money his alums give, but what % of alums give. Soooooooooooooo, if all the whiners and complainers would simply make an annual, one-time donation, it would make John's trials a li'l bit easier. It's sooooooooooo simple to sit back and decry what's not happening when you're part and parcel of the problem and not the solution! And, when you make that donation, it would be nice to check to see if your employer matches such donations.

calumetheights
calumetheights

I'm just going to say it - WHY THE HAM SANDWICH ARE WE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION PUBLICLY?????  Don't we realize what is happening here?  How about we SHUT UP and start DOING!  Tired of all this snapping at each other.  WE ARE FAMILY - and we had better continue to be!!!   How much money are we raising?  How much money are we PERSONALLY giving?  How involved are we in the institution?  SAYIN' AIN'T LIKE DOIN'!!!!  We don't need any finger pointing - we need ELBOW GREASE.  So let's shut up and get to work.  We can start in this way:

1) Increase our PERSONAL contribution - outside of alumni dues.  Right now Coke will match anything over what we gave last year up to $1million

2) Take an ACTIVE role in some aspect of our local alumni chapter -  (this also means paying our dues)

3) Take personal responsibility in insuring that worthy high school students are strongly considering - and ultimately choosing - the college.


fhsmct
fhsmct

@calumetheights  Sooooooooooooooo true!  .  .  .

MarcusJackson
MarcusJackson

Morehouse needs a new president for several reasons ....

1) Wilson comes across as arrogant, a self-centered elitist, and not personable which is bad for the Morehouse brand

2) Morehouse College graduation rate has been stagnant under his tenure while most colleges are improving

3) The number of applications received are down right now despite many HBCUs reporting increases.  Morehouse recruitment strategy is apparently ineffective (leader's fault).

4) The endowment has not really grown whatsoever despite many HBCUs reporting increases yet again

5) 90% of applicants are accepted which is damaging the reputation of the school, they have to let almost everybody in to meet a quota.

6) Spelman beats Morehouse in almost every important academic metric. 

fhsmct
fhsmct

@MarcusJackson  sorry but Black student graduation rates at ALL colleges has been stagnant, and, in many years, on the decline.  The issue is finances and one of the biggest problems is many of our students hit the beginning of their sr years, in good standing but out of funds.  Their ability to borrow is based on their parents financial situations and there has been a decline/decrease in federal student funding opportunity/availability.  Thus, your assertion that Black student graduations rates have been improving is factual fallacy. Also, the fact remains that, while more Black students (numerically) attend predominately White institutions, HBCUs still produce more Black graduates [total number(s)].

As for accepting 90% of applicants: if they meet the bill, so be it.  It makes no sense to reject qualified applicants simply to boost some false sense of pride impression: "oh, look at how many we rejected!" 

Also, if fewer numbers of students are applying, so be it: it's there loss, not ours!.  As the former Dean of FAMU's B-School used to tell kids who rejected her recruitment of them: "Not a problem, some day, you'll be working for one of ours." . . .

MarcusJackson
MarcusJackson

@fhsmct black student graduation rates are improving at some schools, you can't really believe that black graduations rates are declining or stagnant at over 1,000 institutions. Fisk and UMES seen great increases since 2000.


Many of the 90% are qualified to be there but many are not.  I'm always hearing stories of the strange mix of very sophisticated men and wannabe aimless thugs on campus.  And I understand some kids need time to grow but the problem with that is that you have to want to grow ... many of these guys on campus don't care to grow or do better and just should've never been accepted b/c they are disrupting the learning process for those who belong and want to do better.  They just want to party it up with all the perks of being a Man of Morehouse  .... not good.


No it's Morehouse lost, Morehouse is losing millions of dollar and reputation fleeting because they have not positioned themselves to remain highly competitive in the 21st century and have gotten too complacent with the accomplishments of the past.  You gauge how well a school is doing by applications received, people wanting to attend .... Morehouse should be overwhelmed not underwhelmed with young men wanting to attend the institution.  Right now, Morehouse is no longer the premiere HBCU ... many public HBCUs and some private ones (namely Xavier and Oakwwod) have surpassed Morehouse today.  Sad but true.

ThomasBenjamin
ThomasBenjamin

Where Morehouse College has it's issues (just as any other organization or school), I tend to see a lot of disgruntled feelings that are not countered by alumni giving their time and/or money. I see President Wilson as sometimes unfairly attacked. Sure, he's at the helm and bears the responsibility of the college's outcomes, but one man can only do so much. We keep referring to Walter Massey (who is also just one man) as who is seemingly a template for success. As someone who is an alumn (c/o 2012) AND a former employee of the college, I believe the College has improved in both infrastructure and utilization of resources under Wilson's leadership.

I tend to hear a lot of complaints and very little suggestions for practical solutions and improvements from both parents and alumni. We are all capable of remotely mentoring a student (https://portal.workreadygrad.com/) and sending even just a few dollars to various scholarship programs or the unrestricted fund. We cannot influence leadership like we want to because we are not in any position to do so, but despite this we can do our part to be a boon to the college instead of only grumbling about things.

TracyJohnson
TracyJohnson

Morehouse is quickly advancing under Dr. Wilson's leadership. As a recent graduate I will cite that our traditions are changing, we are not the only black institution undergoing significant changes to keep a strong embrace without public backlash. Many events such as Spirit Night issue vastly different delivery of the same message, we are brothers we stand together even when we don't like the changes we see because Morehouse must be, and while Morehouse is being it must also remain Morehouse a recognizable brotherhood. We have a leader in President Wilson we must support him to keep our beloved house present and viable in these tough times economically speaking. It is most unfortunate that scholarships are hard to accumulate but that fact is not new. The individual hurdles with finance only go to prove your commitment to bettering yourself. A college degree is no promise of wealth or even social security as I write this two years out I wake up with new burdens, like repaying student loans but in my vision of who I am and can become I thank God for new burdens it shows growth. I believe the same theory of accepting new burdens such as our limited scholarship distribution should be viewed as what it is, conservation of funds for those to come. We all would like to push the idea that if Morehouse liberally passed out scholarships grateful alumni would pour in funds. About that, the alumni would not be voicing public complaints about giving if we saw it as a duty to our own legacy as opposed to viewing it as a sign of confidence in the current leadership. For the record even with student loans and while in seminary I am financial in the national and local chapter here in Atlanta oh and I give for the appeals because I remember what it was like being a student with limited resources, struggling with academics because of the disadvantage of not always having food to concentrate or a bed to go home to but I will say this I had my second day at Morehouse, and to anyone who questions it, the struggle is worth the reward and I don't feel like I have seen the benefits of the degree and education in full effect. Morehouse put so much in me that it takes multiple other entities to just bring out the gifts and honed skills, some may never be called on again but its so much that I feel ready for most any occasion I am called on to represent myself, my family, my brothers, our beloved institution.

Bill5620
Bill5620

Morehouse is still Morehouse. I echo the sentiments of David who asks us to look in the mirror. Me, I give as much to Morehouse each year as I reasonably can with three in college. 1K or 2k a year generally but as much as 5k in 2013. Only one of my son's went to Morehouse but that is certainly not because I (or they) didn't think Morehouse was good enough. It is! Each child has different needs and interests and I'm sure Dr. Wilson would say the same thing.

I also question the motives of the original article writer and yes, of Mr. Arrington. Why play this out in the media? All Alumni need to come together and sport Dear Old Morehouse if it is truly dear to us.

Upset mom
Upset mom

As a parent of a Man of Morehouse, I am disgusted by the state of the college. The lack of resources available to students, low campus morale and the lack of concern from administration is disheartening. It seems as if the president is more vested in saving his job than building the school. This is will be my son's last year!

TRUTH38
TRUTH38

@Upset mom What are you and your son doing besides complaining about the university. Have you shared any creative recommendations to the leadership or are you just sideline quarterbacking. That is wrong with the world, we need people to invest not just in lip service but in deeds. 

Bthomas65
Bthomas65

Wow. Attack the parents?! What they do is spend money to send their young men to the college. With spending money there are always expectations. Her sons focus ishiuld be to get an education. Her focus is to ensure that this environment is money well spent. And Truth38. Are you an graduate? Because you referred to the COLLEGE as a university. Interesting.

JT jones
JT jones

As a graduate, it is evident that John Wilson is a divisive figure. I am not as engaged as I once was but from everything I am hearing across the country from even non-black friends and colleagues, he is doing a disservice to Morehouse relationships. It has been spoken that enrollment has fallen to 1800 students. When was the last time that has happened. Patents of prospects state that the campus is a dead ghost town. Where did the Morehouse spirit go? We have gone from positive leadership (Massey/Franklin) to this. It's time for a change before our beloved college withers away.

TRUTH38
TRUTH38

@JT jones I have a few question for you JT Jones, more importantly, each are questions you should ask yourself….. What are you doing to help your beloved Morehouse become sustainable and attractive to the next generations of students?   Just talking??  Have you donated? Have you written to the President with suggestions? Are your a Morehouse Man, or just a man full of hot air? 

fhsmct
fhsmct

@JT jones  R~E~A~L~L~Y? Enrollment has declined to 1800?. 


I'm a 1980 grad and enrollment was around 950+/- in those days so your complaint is trivial, at best . . .


Bthomas65
Bthomas65

How is this trivial when the college like many other hbcu is tuition based. LOSS of revenue. Business 101! What do the balance sheet and cash flow statement look like if you do not have enough customers to support your expense. Study up !

Dargan From Dunwoody
Dargan From Dunwoody

Hopefully the new Officers of the Morehouse College National Alumni Association will provide some significant support to Dr. Wilson and his administration.

morehouse man
morehouse man

Not quite sure that gutting scholarships by $5mm and all of the needless references the Morehouse President makes about his days at Harvard and MIT do anything to benefit his main focus of making Morehouse better.  He appears to have 1 foot in Morehouse and the other foot at Harvard, MIT, or Princeton where his son attends (Morehouse was not good enough for his son).


How much money has Wilson really raised? What are the sources of revenue? How do they compare to the Massey years? Why does Spelman have over twice the endowment Morehouse has? Who wants to claim responsibility for the school's demise?


A bit of humility from Wilson and embracing the alumni can go along way. The guy has all the answers yet, only makes presentations that show him to be Superman, or basking in the Harvard press he seems to enjoy.


Wilson raised billions for MIT, but listless at raising money for  Morehouse.


I also blame the Morehouse Board. The college needs to deepen its bench if it intends to find Morehouse alums that can lead. The reality is that a non Morehouse alum may have to be the opinion when Wilson is pushed out.


You ask Wilson about a Morehouse problem, he gives you at MIT or Harvard solution.


You only need to look across the street to Spelman to find a school to emulate. Not Harvard, a university with $40 bn in assets.


David
David

How much have you given? It's not about President Wilson or his son. It's about you, the countless Morehouse men who are so proud to be called a Morehouse man but not proud enough to identify himself and stand up by giving to the school. This is why Spelman, MIT and Harvard are in better shape. Perhaps you (All Morehouse Men) should look in the mirror.

markpress205
markpress205

@David "looking in the mirror" is but one small piece to this conundrum that is the state of affairs at Morehouse. This problem has been decades in the making. The endowment has not moved significantly during any of the last 4-5 college presidents. Morehouse is on a morphine drip that needs more than Alumni giving to survive. Wilson's article is indicative of what has been going on at the college for years--dissemblance, dishonesty, lack of transparency, mismanagement of resources, failure of leadership and vision from the board of trustees, etc. We all know it. We experienced it while we were students. It is time to sound the fire alarm. We are in trouble!

Jarrell
Jarrell

@David The problem of Morehouse's paltry endowment cannot be solved by alumni donations.  Don't be silly.

MIT and Harvard are in better shape because over the course of scores of decades, they have received large donations and grants from non-alumni donors and had the benefit of time to compound their investment.  Spelman's large endowment came primarily from the Rockefellers and their connections, not alumni giving (celebrity donors like the Cosbys also helped by giving millions at a time).


Should alumni give back?  Sure.  But you're a fool if you think that 100% participation, even at a rate of 10% of all alumnus' income, can solve the problem.  What HBCUs lack, generally, compared to PWI, are transformative donations in the 8 to 9 figure range.  That's the difference maker.

fhsmct
fhsmct


When John, or any other college President, hits the fund raising trail, one of the 1st and major questions asked of him is not how much money his alums give, but what % of alums give. Soooooooooooooo, if all the whiners and complainers would simply make an annual, one-time donation, it would make John's trials a li'l bit easier.

TRUTH38
TRUTH38

@Jarrell Don't be silly, you are the silly one, of course alumni donations matter! What planet are you on to think that alumni support isn't key and extremely important!!! 


TRUTH38
TRUTH38

@morehouse man Have you reached out to your classmates to ask them to match your $10,000 you plan to give to Morehouse? If $10k is too much,  have you reach out for them to match your $1,000 or are you just talking and taking zero action. I don't know you but I am pretty confident that is is the latter, all talk and zero action. Colleges and universities need money to thrive that is the bottom line not a bunch of lip service, put your money where your mouth is.  People are so critical but do nothing to resolve the problem, you could host a fundraiser, you could reach out to your place of employment and ask them to match your contribution dollar for dollar but that is not the case because I can bet the $10,000 that you should have given to Morehouse that you have not given a red cent. Getting off of the computer and planning an event would require you to get off of your behind and actually do something! 

  Instead of bad mouthing the school lift it up.   We always speak so negatively about our institutions that is a big part of the problem.  

fhsmct
fhsmct

My parents taught at SC State and I grew-up on that campus (2yrs old-8th grade), yet I ended up attending West Point, then transferring to Morehouse. My sister attended Bennett. Does that mean we think anything less of SC State?  I'm a Life Member of both school's (Morehouse and SC State) National Alum Associations as well as their local chapters, donating to both schools.  And, as for Spelman's fiscal largess: alum giving is a real indicator. At your next 5 yr class reunion (IF you even attend), compare the amount announced for your class donation versus your peers at Spelman.  It's going to shock and embarrass you, if you have even an inkling of self respect and pride!  . . .

fhsmct
fhsmct

When the administration has to make a choice between paying the bills/General Fund or building the endowment, paying the bills will win 99.9999% of the time . . .

fhsmct
fhsmct

If every whiner would put aside $25/pay period, in a basic savings account, to donate to the school (that's  $650/yr), it would make a significant difference. Multiply that times 5 (the number of years between Reunions) and you get $3250 per classmate: begin to get the picture? and that amount doesn't include the interest earned from the saving's account.


And, instead of getting some overpriced/"look at where I'm staying" ritzy hotel room and renting a upper end/luxury car when they attend Homecoming, find a less expensive room (you're away from the room most of the weekend), get a small or mid-sized rental (it's parked most of the time) and donate the difference from what you would have spent to the school



BUT, that makes too much sense, now doesn't it?! . . .