Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

LeMoyne-Owen Trustees Resign for $2.5 Million Donation

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

LeMoyne-Owen Trustees Resign for $2.5 Million Donation

Article excerpt

MEMPHIS, Tenn.

With its accreditation in jeopardy and its debt staggering at $6 million, LeMoyne-Owen College trustees last month agreed to an anonymous donor's stipulation that they step aside in order to receive a $2.5 million gift, and thus keep the historically Black institution's doors open.

Most of the college's 30-plus trustees have submitted their letters of resignation, says board chairman Robert Lipscomb in an article in the Commercial Appeal. Those who resigned will remain on the board until their positions are filled. Trustees who hold alumni slots or those designated for churches were not asked to leave by the donor.

"We have the opportunity to renew ourselves," Lipscomb says in the article. "Our progress isn't going to happen overnight, but it will happen."

The college's president, Dr. James G. Wingate, has already announced his resignation, effective Sept. 1, mainly because of the school's fund-raising woes and the resulting $6 million debt. The school had until June 30 to raise a portion of the debt--$1 million--to cover its operating costs or face losing accreditation. If it had lost its accreditation, it would have also lost federal funding, which would have been disastrous in a school where 90 percent of the students receive financial aid.

Desperate to save the school, college trustee and Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton had even offered to box former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier in a fund-raising challenge.

In the past two years, LeMoyne-Owen's board of trustees has grappled with significant internal dissension, stymieing its effectiveness. The anonymous donor was apparently aware of the crisis, says Gayle S. Rose, who resigned from the board weeks before the donor's request.

"The anonymous donor understood that the current board was full of strife as that was quite public knowledge" says Rose, who was chair of the board's institutional advancement committee and vice chair of its finance committee. …

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