UPDATE: Morehouse College Leadership Transition

Date Released: March 6, 2017

Dear Morehouse Community,

For the past six years, I have had the honor of serving as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Morehouse College, a role I continue to take pride in each and every day. In that time, I’ve witnessed firsthand the passion, dedication and commitment of generations of Morehouse men who, like myself, are personally and professionally indebted to our great institution. As we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Morehouse College, I am pleased to be part of the process to secure our future and look forward to delivering on our promise to the next generation of Morehouse Men. 

Today, colleges and universities operate in a changing economic landscape that will increasingly present new challenges that can impact our ability to successfully deliver on our mission. However, these challenges also create new opportunities. Over the past two years, there has been no greater discussion or consideration across our Morehouse College family. Our primary goal is to focus on the future and ensure the Morehouse legacy as a global leader among the top liberal arts institutions. While extremely difficult, the decision not to renew President John Wilson’s contract earlier this year reflects the fundamental belief that change is necessary at times, despite any situational perceptions or short-term gains, in order to position ourselves for long-term success.

I want to acknowledge some of the concerns raised by students and faculty related to the Board’s decision process regarding President Wilson’s contract. There are long-standing measures in place that provide guidance on participation in Board decision-making and these guidelines exist to protect confidentialities, eliminate potential conflicts of interest and to ensure that those who cast votes hold no bias. It is important to note that leading up to the vote, the input of students, faculty and others was taken into account. In fact, prior meetings leading up to our January session included students, faculty and others to discuss this matter. Overall, the full Board has been engaged in a comprehensive review of the facts and future direction of Morehouse College over the course of several Board meetings for the past two years. During our January meeting, a majority voted to invest in a new future for Morehouse. We are grateful to President Wilson for his significant contributions as President of Morehouse College and wish him continued success. He leaves our institution with a solid foundation upon which to build.

Change is never easy. However, we have been slowly positioning ourselves for this potential moment of transition for some time now. Over the past few years, a number of long-standing and distinguished Trustees who have given much to the college have left the Board to make way for new, young and accomplished candidates who embrace the belief that it is now their time to serve. In most cases, these have been planned exits and while some others have been unexpected due to relocations, change in status or personal needs, I am very excited by the high level of diversity and expertise that continues to enrich our Board today. As my term as Board Chair comes to a scheduled end, and new Board leadership is elected, I am confident in the Board’s future.

It should be noted that the Board of Trustees conducts in-depth assessments on a regular basis to ensure a clear separation between governance and administration. In a continuing effort to improve our governance practices, in 2014, the Board invited the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) to conduct a Board Performance Assessment. As a result of this assessment, the Board was encouraged to continue adhering to Morehouse’s rules and bylaws. The Board was also encouraged to ensure the makeup of its members continues to be diversified. We will continue to adhere to this suggestion as we seek to fill current and future vacancies. Most importantly, upon receipt of the AGB recommendations, the Board formed a special committee to specifically focus on reviewing and implementing the outlined recommendations, especially those that were consistent with the steps the Board has already taken.   

As we move forward, we are working diligently to ensure a smooth transition of leadership and a continued focus on strengthening the Morehouse brand and reputation. We have established several Board committees to assist in this process, and we are currently working with Isaacson, Miller, a national search firm, to identify a new Presidential candidate. Chair Dale Jones and Vice Chair Euclid Walker of the Search Committee are leading this effort and have established an aggressive schedule to achieve this goal in the coming months. Furthermore, students, faculty, and administrative trustees have been invited to join the Search Committee to offer their input on selecting the next President of Morehouse College.  Most recently, our Vice Chair of the Board, Jim Moss, and several other Trustees sat down with faculty leadership to dive deeper into the elements they seek most in a new leader. These conversations have been fruitful and productive, and will continue to shape the committee’s actions going forward.

While the search to identify a new President continues, I am pleased to announce that the Transition Committee has identified William “Bill” Taggart, Chief Operating Officer, Morehouse College, as the individual who will begin to assume day-to-day leadership responsibilities for the college. Bill joined the Morehouse Executive Team in July 2015. The Board will meet in April to formally consider its decision regarding the appointment of an Interim President. I, along with the entire Board of Trustees, have the utmost confidence in Bill as he steps into his new role and leads Morehouse in the coming months.

This transition will take time, but we are committed to pursuing open lines of communication throughout the process. In the coming months, we will further address our progress regarding these leadership changes and the search for a new President. The following highlights some key decisions and activities that will be addressed during our upcoming April Board meeting:

  • Transition of Board leadership (newly elected Board officers)
  • Ratification of new bylaws
  • Selection of an Interim President (if necessary)
  • 150th Anniversary funding campaigns

Finally, we have a number of exciting milestones to look forward to this year as we celebrate our 150th Anniversary and continue to emphasize the importance of fundraising in shaping the future of Morehouse. As a top priority, the Board is working closely with the college’s leadership to increase incoming fundraising dollars, plan our commencement celebrations in May and prepare for our accreditation renewal later this year. I am proud of the strong momentum we have achieved thus far and I am confident that our College’s strong reputation of academic excellence will continue to grow over the next 150 years.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I look forward to building a stronger Morehouse College as we celebrate this momentous year in our College’s history. I am confident that together we will continue to build our premier liberal arts educational institution well into the future.

Best Regards, 

Robert C. Davidson, Jr.
Chairman of the Board, Morehouse College

Last Modified: March 6, 2017, 16:03 PM, by: Kara Walker

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