The perseverance of Morris Brown College: A bright future aheadFront entrance of the Multipurpose Complex at Morris (Photo by Kelly Jordan)
As Dr. Kevin James began his tenure at the Historically Black institution, Morris Brown College was trying to retain its accreditation that was forfeited almost twenty years ago. This third and final installment of this series looks at the work done by James and his administration.
By Allison Joyner
One year after being the interim president of Morris Brown College, Dr. Kevin James made a strategic action plan to regain the accreditation that was revoked in 2002. The board of trustees appointed him as the 19th president of the Historically Black school.
In the announcement of his new appointment, James said, “We will continue working to obtain accreditation, ensure financial stability, build a strong relationship with alumni and grow enrollment through “The Hard Reset,” in which the school has gone back to the beginning to clean up their policies and procedures.
Due to the misappropriation of funds by the previous administration of then-president Dolores Cross, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SCACS) withdrew its accreditation from Morris Brown, leaving them destined for closure.
James says the college is “now operating with integrity,” and he and his administration are “ready to prove to the creditors, the U.S. Department of Education,” and to everybody that the “institution is doing the right thing.”
In 2019, the board of trustees and then interim president James had decided to begin the application process for accreditation through the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) to receive financial aid and other federal funding after approval.
As part of that process, Morris Brown College had to go through a 17-point evaluation to demonstrate it was performing at a level worthy of accreditation.
Since the abuse of financial resources resulted in the loss of accreditation, raising funds and clearing unpaid debts was going to be a hurdle for Morris Brown.
James, the board of trustees, and his staff worked tirelessly to build relationships with alumni, corporations, and donors to help in their goal of raising money.
Funding for the HBCU came through many channels. One high-profile funder was recording artist, Kanye West, who has roots at Morris Brown.
His mother, Donda, was a professor for 31 years and eventually became a full tenured professor when she started her career at Morris Brown College.
When West performed his Sunday Service series at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in 2019, the Grammy winner made a donation to the church, which was later redirected to Morris Brown. James said that the undisclosed amount went to a scholarship in Donda’s name.
Jeffery Miller, president of the DeKalb County chapter of The Morris Brown National Alumni Association, foresees his alma mater having “explosive growth” over the next three years.
With the help of donors, alumni and the wolverine spirit, The Morris Brown National Alumni Association raised almost $500,000 during last year’s virtual Homecoming.
James and his administration have also worked hard to build relationships with local businesses and corporations in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
A few weeks after James’s appointment, the National Park Service announced an African American Civil Rights Grant to replace the roof and repair the clock and bell tower of the school’s Fountain Hall.
The $75,000 grant was part of a $12 million National Park Service initiative to preserve institutions that have played a key role in telling the African American story of equality.
Fountain Hall, became a National Historic Site in 1974, was where the office of socialist and Atlanta University professor, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote “The Souls of Black Folk” at the turn of the 20th century.
As 2020 came to a close, a new relationship with competitive video game company Pharaoh’s Conclave and their Thomas Family Fund started to begin. They donated $160,000 to go towards an eSports center in honor of alum Ronald Floyd Thomas. SaportaReport was there when they hosted a “wall breaking” ceremony to start construction on the center.
Shortly before Morris Brown made their big announcement concerning accreditation, minority-owned global management firm CGI Merchant Group, LLC announced a $30 million investment with Morris Brown to build a 150-key upscale hotel and hospitality management training complex. Once completed, the school that former slaves founded will be the only HBCU to have a flagged hotel and hospitality management training program on its campus.
Building on the theme of hospitality management, Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A teamed up with Morris Brown to create a leadership development program for students to help them prepare for a career in hospitality and organizational leadership. The quick-service restaurant company donated $500,000 to make this two-year program described for its participants to learn more about themselves, their coworkers and businesses at large before applying their knowledge in leadership positions.
Finally, a significant partnership with the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GHCC) will allow Latino students to earn a higher education and gain exposure to desired career fields and experiential learning opportunities to enhance their portfolios.
“This partnership with Morris Brown College will further cement our commitment to ensuring that all communities and businesses can thrive together,” said GHCC Board Chairman Antonio Molina.
Due to James’ hard work, Morris Brown College received an accreditation candidacy from the Virginia-based accreditation agency and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education on making the steps of becoming an accredited institution.
Although the news is huge, the institution still has a long way to go if they plan on being a fully accredited college.
James says the next step for the school is to apply for financial aid and Title IV funding from the U.S. Department of Education in time for new and returning students to apply before the fall semester begins in August.
Morris Brown College is now accepting applications for the fall semester. If you are interested in enrolling, check out their website for more information.