For the first time in Florida A & M’s history, a woman will head the university on a permanent basis.
Since 2010, Elmira Mangum, 60, has been at Cornell University, where she helped steer the school through the recession and rein in a nearly $150 million deficit as Vice President of Budget and Finance. Now, she’s bringing those skills to Florida A&M, which was just freed from accreditation probation stemming in part from bad financial audits.
“We really needed a change agent to come in and take a look at, especially the financial controls—she’s a financial management issues—we needed someone with the experience and knowledge to bring about new ideas, creative ways of doing things, state-of-the-art best practices to move us forward,” said FAMU Trustee Marjorie Turnbull about why she backed Mangum’s candidacy.
Speaking with reporters after the board meeting, Mangum says she’s honored to be selected.
“There was a great field of candidates who applied for this position, and there was great leadership in place now in Dr. Robinson, so I am honored to be selected from this field of people to lead this university.”
Mangum's appointment did lead to some protests. During public comment, students and alumni pushed yet again to name FAMU’s interim president to the post permanently. However, during Thursday’s meeting, FAMU's board chairman said the board asked Robinson NOT to apply for the job in order to attract a large number of candidates.
“As you can imagine, it’s incredibly difficult to recruit a talented group of applicants when they feel they’re competing against an incumbent," said Trustee Solomon Badger. "And no one would be more challenging to compete against than a leader as qualified as Dr. Robinson.”
Speaking afterward, Robinson, who has twice led FAMU during accreditation troubles, said he was humbled by the support. He says while he disappointed to not be considered for the permanent position, he will work with the administration during the transition to a new president.
“There are so many places this institution will go and has the potential to go that it would be a good choice for anyone, including Larry Robinson," he said. "But unfortunately for Larry Robinson, someone else—and a good someone else, I believe—has been elected to serve in that capacity. I just wanted to make sure I left it up to the board as to what I agreed to, which was not being a candidate.”
Two trustees, Spurgeon McWilliams and Glenton Gilzean also voted against Mangum, with Gilzean calling on the board to reopen the search process and McWilliams saying Mangum is not as qualified for the job as Robinson.
Mangum will still have to get approval from Florida’s Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s public universities. She also still has to negotiate salary and a start date and tie up other affairs at Cornell before she takes the helm at FAMU, which could be during the Summer or Fall.
Elmira Mangum, Vice President of Budget and Finance at Cornell University, has become the first woman to hold the presidency of Florida A&M University.
In a 10-2 vote, FAMU's board of trustees named Mangum for the job.
The decision was not without some criticism.
Board member Spurgeon McWilliams expressed concern about Mangum's lack of experience in dealing with crisis situations as well as her response to a question about whether she would be considered for a presidency at Cornell, which Mangum answered, "no".
During public comments several people stood to lobby for interim President Larry Robinson to be named as permanent president.
However, Board Chairman Solomon Badger said the board requested Robinson not apply for the job in order to draw applicants. Board member Rufus Montgomery said at the time the board made that request, it also said Robinson would not be eligible for the job.
Both McWilliams and fellow Trustee Glenton Gilzean cast votes against Mangum's candidacy, but the rest of the trustees voted for her appointment.
Interim President Larry Robinson says he plans to work on the transition, and hasn't given much consideration to what his future plans will be. He expressed some interest in going back to the Environmental Sciences Department where he is a tenured professor.
Check back later on for more updates.