Morehouse trustees fail to renew President John Wilson’s contractThree of Atlanta's HBCU presidents: John Wilson of Morehouse College; Mary Schmidt Campbell of Spelman College; and Ronald Johnson of Clark-Atlanta University (Photo by Maria Saporta)
By Maria Saporta
The Morehouse College Board of Trustees have decided to not renew contract of President John Wilson, who has been leading the prestigious institution for four years.
Wilson will serve until the completion of his current contract, which ends on June 30, 2017. And then “Dr. Wilson will pass the baton to a new President,” according to a release posted on the Morehouse website.
The timing was ironic, given that it is the national holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr., probably the most notable graduate of the historically black all-male college. On Friday evening, when the board was in town for a two-day trustees meeting, Wilson participated in a program at the Center for Civil and Human Rights titled: “Morehouse College and the Making of Man” about King’s relationship with the institution.
The timing also is awkward given that Morehouse College is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2017 – a year that will witness a transition in leadership.
“The Board of Trustees recognizes Dr. Wilson’s significant contributions to the College and its students, faculty and alumni,” said Robert Davidson, chairman of Morehouse College’s Board of Trustees. “Dr. Wilson turned around Morehouse in a number of ways. During his tenure, Dr. Wilson improved student achievement across a wide range of metrics.
“He and his team were champions for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) initiatives for our students and significantly increased the College’s private gifts, grants and contracts,” Davidson continued. “In addition, Dr. Wilson played a pivotal role in bringing President Barack Obama to Morehouse as the commencement speaker in 2013, and hosting Vice President (Joe) Biden in 2015.”
Morehouse Trustee Andrew Young, at the King Center’s Salute to Greatness dinner Saturday night, did not answer directly whether Wilson’s contract had been renewed, even though he said an official statement would soon be released.
“John Wilson has done some very good things for the school,” said Young, who had been supportive of the president. “He has brought a vision that broader than anything we’ve had in recent years, and it’s where we are going.”
But Young did not address the divisions that have split the Morehouse family apart – in what was described by the student newspaper – the Maroon Tiger – as “A house divided.” A SaportaReport article on Saturday said Wilson’s future was in question.
Wilson, who was not going to be available for interviews until Tuesday, was quoted in the announcement as saying he was “proud” of his tenure at Morehouse.
“I am proud of the work we have achieved and the obstacles we have overcome while serving as President of Morehouse College,” Dr. Wilson said. “I am particularly proud that alumni fundraising was significantly enhanced, with donations from alumni and the Board of Trustees reaching record levels over the past two years.”
Wilson also was able to attract more corporate and philanthropic dollars during his tenure. As recently as Thursday, Morehouse announced that it had received a $1 million donation from Newell Brands Inc. to expand its innovative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program.
Young also was quoted in the statement as saying Wilson “has helped to ensure that Morehouse College continues to serve as the premier educational institution to develop men for lives of leadership and service.”
At the Salute to Greatness dinner, Young made another point about the importance of Morehouse – one of the most significant historically black colleges and universities in the country.
“Morehouse has been an extremely special place,” Young said. “Without Morehouse, there would not have been a Martin Luther King; and without Morehouse, there would not have been a Maynard Jackson.”
Jackson was the first African-American mayor of Atlanta. The Morehouse Man was elected in 1973 at the young age of 35.