Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Tougaloo Is a 'Natural Fit' for New Interim President

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Tougaloo Is a 'Natural Fit' for New Interim President

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Appointment strengthens historic relationship between Brown University and Tougaloo College

Dr. James Wyche, professor of medicine and associate provost at Brown University and executive director of the Leadership Alfiance, a 29-school consortium dedicated to improving the participation of underrepresented minorities in graduate and doctoral studies, is on leave from both posts to become the interim president of Mississippi's Tougaloo College. And the chairman of Tougaloo's board couldn't be more pleased.

"You wouldn't believe the response this news has generated," says LeRoy Walker Jr., a Jackson, Miss., businessman. "People have been asking, 'LeRoy, how did you do this? How did you pull this off?'"

Walker's response is a straightforward one. "I tell them, the relationship was already here," he says. "Dr. Wyche has simply seen the light."

Indeed, the fact may not be widely known, but it's quite true that Brown University and Tougaloo College have had a continuous sister campus relationship for 37 years.

"If you speak to anyone who's remotely connected to the civil rights movement, they will tell you that Tougaloo College was one of the key locations," says Wyche. It was, in fact, a "safe haven" both for the Freedom Riders and for a veritable stream of student activists from the North into Mississippi.

Exchanges first of students and then of faculty began during those turbulent years, and the relationship has persisted and deepened with every passing year, Wyche explains. A Brown University official serves on the board of Tougaloo College. Brown has a committee devoted to Brown-Tougaloo relations. The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation have both cited the Brown-Tougaloo relationship as a model for others to follow in forging relationships between small colleges and large universities.

Wyche says taking the Tougaloo post was not a difficult decision. He was already at a crossroads professionally. His cancer research team was successful and well established - it had been in operation since 1974. And his administrative and fund-raising duties at Brown and the Leadership Alliance had prepared him to take "the next step."

"You only need to come to Tougaloo once," he explains. "The need is high, the history and the legacy are strong, and, if you look at what's happening in Mississippi today - particularly compared to the '60s and even the '80s - there is a four-letter word for what's going on and that is 'hope. …

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