FAMU To Interview Two President Finalists Wednesday

Jan 6, 2014

Florida A&M University could name its 11th president this week after a search committee narrowed the field of finalists from four to just two  Monday.

Elmira Mangum, the first of the four initial candidates,  heads Cornell University’s Budget Office. Magnum told trustees  when it comes to university leadership, it is a shared effort:

“Quality management, leadership, fundraising performance, knowing how to collaborate with students, faculty, the community—it’s something I can do," she said.

Trustees said they liked Magnum's background in finance and budget--and also her direct approach, with FAMU National Alumni Association President Tommy Mitchell saying he was impressed by Mitchell's knowledge of the financial situation of many HBCU students and her, "candor."

Also in the running to be FAMU’s next President is John Price, who says his role as founding president of the University of North Texas at Dallas has led him to believe university’s need to do better at branding themselves:

“What is the FAMU Brand? Now is a good time to reflect and come up with a brand for FAMU that everyone can get behind and promote," he said.

That stood out to many on the search committee, but some took issue with what he called a "vagueness" in Price's responses and somewhat repetitive answers.

Price stepped down from his University of North Texas-Dallas job last year. According to the Dallas Morning News  "faculty and staff members have complained about Price’s leadership, high employee turnover and the school’s spending practices".

Members of the search committee said they were impressed with the academic resume of Morgan State University administrator Joan Robinson, especially, as Trustee Belinda Shannon points out—when it comes to securing federal grants through the National Institute of Health, where Robinson was a former fellow:

"She has demonstrated a great track record in securing research grants and funding.” 

But when it came down to final responses to Robinson, the committee did not have much to add.

The last interview of the day came with retired NASA Administrator Woodrow Whitlow, an MIT graduate who also served as a high level administrator at NASA.

“I think that my academic background certainly qualifies me to be successful in this role," he told the group.

Whitlow's resume includes stints at several top universities, including Penn State and George Washington University.

But there are some who are contesting the Trustees’ timeline, and once again raising the name of interim President Larry Robinson for the permanent position.

“While we had four people with some foundational abilities, not one, in my mind, touched the skill and ability of our interim president, Dr. Larry Robinson," said FAMU’s 7th president Walter Smith, during an in-person appeal to trustees following the conclusion of the interviews. That may be decided Wednesday, when the full board of trustees will meet, to interview the two finalists for the job-- Magnum and Price.

FAMU has been without a permanent president for the past 18 months and trustees could name a permanent president by Thursday.

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Florida A&M University could name its 11th president this week.

The university's board of trustees is interviewing four finalists today (Monday) in Orlando. Two other finalists,  Dianne Boardley Suber, president at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, N.C., and John Maupin, president of the Morehouse School of Medicine, withdrew their names Sunday from consideration.

Those being interviewed by the board are:

Elmira Mangum, a Cornell University Vice President

John Price,  founding president of the University of North Texas at Dallas

Joan Robinson, a Morgan State University Vice President

Woodrow Whitlow, a retired NASA administrator

Up to three  semifinalists will be invited to Tallahassee to meet with university stakeholders and be interviewed by the board of trustees on Wednesday. The board could name it's pick Thursday.

None of the finalists for the job are FAMU alumni, marking the first time in six decades the school's next leader will have no ties to the institution.

FAMU has been without a permanent president for a year and a half, with Larry Robinson serving as interim.

Among those not considered for the job are former state Senator Al Lawson, and former high-level FAMU administrator Barbara Barnes.