ATLANTA – If there's anyone who is supremely familiar with the issues facing historically black colleges and universities, it is the newly appointed president of Morehouse College John S. Wilson.
As the current head of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Wilson worked directly with black college presidents on a critical issue facing black colleges in America: survival.
"John has been a trusted voice, helping my administration follow through on our commitment to strengthen historically black colleges and universities. I wish John the best as he takes on this important new role as the president of Morehouse College."
– President Barack Obama
This January, Wilson will become the 11th president of Morehouse College, one of the nation's most prestigious institutions of higher learning. He will succeed fellow alumna Dr. Robert M. Franklin who is leaving the post at year's end.
Selected after a nationwide search. Wilson is considered by many to be the ideal selection for the post.
"Dr. Wilson has the vision, experience and passion to ensure that Morehouse continues to advance its aim of producing global leaders who will continue to make a difference in the world," board chairman Robert C. Davidson Jr., said in a statement. "His record of academic excellence and public service is exemplary of the standard we hold for Morehouse Men."
"The board and I are confident that, with his leadership, we will be well-positioned to continue delivering the educational environment that prepares our students for lives of leadership and service," he added.
Observers say Wilson will have his work cut out for him.
Officials announced last month that a drop in enrollment and declining revenue has forced the school to make several cuts, including trimming department budgets, cutting staff and putting several staff and faculty on furlough.
Interim provost Willis Sheftall said last month that the college is teaching 2,360 students – about 125 fewer than projected. Sheftall attributed the drop to the sluggish economy and changes to a federal loan program.
The U.S. Department of Education says tighter regulations protect taxpayer money and prevent people from accumulating debt they can't afford.
Prospective borrowers can't have any defaults, foreclosures, bankruptcies, tax liens or wage garnishments with the past five years.
Other nearby colleges such as Clark Atlanta University and Spelman College also say enrollment dropped due to the new rules.
Several observers say that Wilson is just the man to help turn the tide at the historically black institution.
A 1979 graduate of the college, Wilson comes to Morehouse with more than 25 years of leadership in higher education and a strong and successful record in institutional fund raising. He also has experience in advancing the interests of black colleges through his research at George Washington University, his service on the Spelman College Board of Trustees and as executive director of the White House initiative on HBCUs.
As executive director of the White House initiative, Wilson worked to strengthen the capacity of 105 HBCUs and led his team to work with the White House, 32 federal agencies, and the private corporate and philanthropic sectors in securing capital.
"Throughout his distinguished career, Dr. Wilson has demonstrated his commitment to supporting the critical role HBCUs serve within our national educational landscape," said Franklin, the college's 10th president. "Our institution and our students will be very well served by Dr. Wilson's experience, focus and passion."
Saying he is honored to lead the college, Wilson praised Franklin's service at the college and said he will continue the push to produce global leaders.
"Dr. Franklin's efforts to raise the international profile of the college and advance our mission through his 'Morehouse Renaissance Men' are just a few among the many significant accomplishments by which he will be remembered," Wilson said. "I thank the Board for its confidence in my leadership and look forward to working with faculty, students and staff, and continuing our proud tradition of producing global leaders."
As executive director of the White House Initiative, Wilson worked to strengthen the capacity of 105 HBCUs and led his team to work with the White House, 32 federal agencies, and the private corporate and philanthropic sectors in securing capital.
"John has been a trusted voice, helping my administration follow through on our commitment to strengthen historically black colleges and universities," said President Barack Obama.
"I wish John the best as he takes on this important new role as the president of Morehouse College and as he continues to inspire more of our nation's youth to pursue higher education," Obama added.