Norfolk State University today announced Vice-Rector and NSU alumnus Melvin Stith as the school’s interim president, replacing retiring president Eddie Moore. Here are a few takeaways to be drawn from the appointment.
1. You can’t go wrong with an alumnus – Moore will leave Norfolk State as the first campus CEO out of the last three to exit without controversy following him out of the door – former presidents Carolyn Meyers and Tony Atwater both left in a whirlwind of ill will from campus constituents, while Moore has remained relatively popular and without public scrutiny. The best way to continue that goodwill – grab a leader who is familiar with the university’s culture and finances, and who can translate that to its next steps of growth.
2. NSU clearly has a plan for marketing itself – The HBCU which made headlines in buying commercial time during March Madness 2016 looks to the dean emeritus of Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, who also had a turn as dean at Florida State University’s Colege of Business. Perhaps Norfolk State’s efforts to be seen and heard in the marketplace go up a notch under Dr. Stith, who may preside over new policies which could help NSU attract more out of state students.
The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia has tried to sweeten its $352.4 million budget request with policy plums for legislators who are looking for ways to reduce the cost of higher education for students and taxpayers.
3. Where’s the plan for the next permanent president? – Moore announced his plans to retire in September, but the board says in the release announcing Dr. Stith as interim president that it has not yet determined a plan for finding its next president. The board deserves kudos for not appointing interim provost Stacey Franklin Jones, who left executive stops at Benedict, Bowie State and Elizabeth City State under dubious circumstances – but two months – with or without a formal board meeting – is a long time for a school that has replaced in president three times in seven years not to have a search plan on deck.
4. Dr. Stith is not the long-term solution. – Dr. Stith seems to be an ideal fit as interim, but at 71, probably isn’t going to be the permanent choice to lead NSU into the future. Unlike Moore, who was brought in specifically to rectify audit and accreditation issues and achieved both in short order, Dr. Stith’s primary role will be to ensure that the next permanent selection will be able to keep pace with the brand building of younger presidents at Virginia State University and Virginia Union University.