Field of New Tennessee State Presidential Candidates Narrows to Six: Despite 'Save Hefner' Campaigns, Current President Will Leave Post, but Stay on as Business Professor

By Walker, Marlon A. | Black Issues in Higher Education, December 30, 2004 | Go to article overview

Field of New Tennessee State Presidential Candidates Narrows to Six: Despite 'Save Hefner' Campaigns, Current President Will Leave Post, but Stay on as Business Professor


Walker, Marlon A., Black Issues in Higher Education


NASHVILLE, TENN.

The search to replace outgoing Tennessee State University President James A. Hefner was narrowed to six candidates at the presidential search committee's Dec. 13 meeting. The process could've proven disastrous because Hefner surfaced as an early nominee to succeed himself.

Hefner, 63, announced in the spring that he would retire in May 2005. The announcement came after two audits criticized his leadership. In one of the audits, he had allegedly accepted Super Bowl tickets from a company that does business with the university. The other claimed he'd allegedly handed out nearly $3 million in scholarships from an endowment that was tapped out. He's admitted to doing both, though he said he tried to pay for the tickets. Hefner said shortly after he was "exonerated" of the audit's claims, his wife expressed her opinion that he should think about retirement.

"I've been a college president for 21 years," said Hefner, who was president at Jackson State University for seven years before coming to TSU in 1991. "My wife felt it was time for me to step aside."

Others felt he'd been forced aside.

An unofficial "Save Hefner" campaign was immediately underway--with students, alumni and local leaders voicing their support for the outgoing president, who has continually said the decision was one made by him and him alone.

But the biggest twist came in November when Nashville city councilwoman Carolyn Baldwin Tucker said in a meeting of the presidential search committee that she planned to nominate Hefner for president. She did so in an e-mail to Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) director of communications Mary Morgan later that evening. While supporters were in favor of the nomination--and Hefner said publicly he'd leave it up to the TBR to decide if he was eligible to replace himself--members of the TBR decided not to debate the nomination. It was eliminated because Hefner had already submitted a letter earlier in the year expressing that he wished to retire.

"Having him (as a nominee) would've cast great doubt on the process and on other candidates as to what's going on," said Tennessee Board of Regents' Chancellor Charles W. Manning.

When Hefner steps down in May, he will take a job as a business professor at the university. He will also hold the Frist Chair of Excellence position. His salary of $177, 280 will be reduced to $155,000. Hefner has three years in the new position until his retirement from the Tennessee University System. After that, he will receive 20 percent of his president's salary as an active president emeritus, which a retired president receives for actively recruiting and raising funds for the school. …

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