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.
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’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.
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.