In a few days, my tenure as the Interim President for Bethune-Cookman will come to an end. I have served in this role since July 2017. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve in the lineage of our founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, for “such a time as this.”
In Charles Dickens’ work, “A Tale of Two Cities,” the phrase, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” is an apt description of the past two years of service to Bethune- Cookman.
I was asked to assume the position as interim president by the (B-CU) Board of Trustees in an 18-7 vote, and within 48 hours, I was cast into that role.
A work in progress
While some problems had risen to the surface which prompted the need for transition, little did I know the vast array of issues that would be uncovered over the next 24 months. Some have been corrected fully, while others are in various stages of resolution.
Many of these problems have been covered relentlessly by the local media, and at times mischaracterized by salacious headlines.
For example, during the week leading up to our most recent graduation, the headline read, “B-CU defaults on 17.5 million in bonds.” The default spoken of was a technical default for not obtaining approval of the 2010 Bondholders when the residence hall project was approved by the Board of Trustees in 2015, not 2019. Buried deep in the article was the statement that the school is current and has never missed a payment on the debt.
Even more recently, a headline stated, “B-CU suffers 10-million-dollar loss under Grimes in 2017- 18.” Again, the positives are buried deep in the story. No mention is made of the fact the school was hit by two back-to-back hurricanes (Matthew and Irma) causing significant repair damage, and that two buildings were paid off when the banknotes matured during that year. Most importantly, the school remains open in spite of the fights from all sides.
Focusing on successes
The President’s Report Card 2018-2019 attempts to capture some of the recent highlights of positive activity occurring during my tenure as interim president. While the battle for our survival and success remain ongoing, the work of the university continues. Since 2017, $8,721,484 has been raised. In FY 2018-2019, $6.4 million in annualized cuts have been made.
Over 1,093 students graduated from B-CU in the last 24 months. Many students walked immediately into graduate school and careers, while others obtained entry-level employment.
When we started this journey, only two students had passed the Florida Teacher Certification Exam. Today, 37 students have done so. After a dry spell, seven new nursing graduates successfully completed their licensing exam as registered nurses this past spring. Many more success stories are reflected in the Report Card’s pages.
An important ‘first’
One of the greatest remembrances of my tenure will be that of achieving the legislative adoption of Dr. Bethune to represent the state of Florida in Washington, D.C.’s Statuary Hall by a near-unanimous vote. The marble statue will be placed on display in early 2020, as our founder becomes the only African American to represent a state. For a woman who touched the lives of millions through education, government and public service, the tribute is fitting and will inspire countless generations to come.
As I pass the torch to incoming president Dr. E. LaBrent Chrite, let us all join forces to bring about a new beginning. We have and will continue to improve in the areas that make a difference in the life of our university. We will embrace the technological and financial advances that allow us to keep pace with the world around us. We will continue to build on the legacy of our founder and her successors.
We will restore the fiscal integrity and expand the confidence in the university through the collective efforts and expertise of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. The achievement of these dreams will require us to “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve and Return to Invest.” Join me in giving our best to the school which deserves and needs our support: Bethune-Cookman University.
In closing, I appreciate the unique opportunity to serve and the countless number of new friends and acquaintances that I have made in the process. Going forward, it is my prayer that God will bless each of you and in particular, Bethune-Cookman University.
Hubert Grimes’s term as interim president of Bethune-Cookman University ends on July 1, 2019. Log on to http://flcourier.com/ to download The President’s Report Card 2018- 2019.