As a former member of Morgan State University's board of regents from 1993 to 2011, I served on the search committee that recommended hiring David Wilson as president. I am appalled and disappointed by my former board colleagues' decision not to renew his contract when it expires next year.
After the board unanimously selected Mr. Wilson as president in 2010, I had to ask myself some very difficult questions regarding my ability to help him take the university to the next level. As a result, I made a very conscious decision that it was time for me to step down, and I asked Gov. Martin O'Malley not re-appoint me to the board for another six-year term.
Why did I make that decision? It was in no way related to Mr. Wilson's selection as president. In fact, quite the contrary: One thing I know for certain is that educational institutions are like human beings — they go through developmental stages.
From my perspective as a professional who has worked tirelessly to develop high-performing nonprofit boards, Morgan's board needed an infusion of new members with the skills, energy, resources and vision to help the president execute a new, jointly developed strategic plan. Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think that something as catastrophic as this might happen.
Boards of regents have three primary functions. First, to recruit, retain, evaluate and support the president. Second, to frame a strategic vision for the institution. And third, to help identify and raise the funds needed to support the educational enterprise.
Even in the best managed and most resourceful institutions, making the transition from one chief executive to another can be difficult. To follow an iconic leader like former President Earl Richardson, who led the school for 27 years, would be difficult for anyone. But to think that any successor as president could institute changes in the school's agenda without making some people unhappy is short-sighted at best.
Mr. Wilson is a consummate "student-centric" president with a bold, audacious agenda to "grow the future and lead the world." I never doubted his ability to do just that.
He has wide support throughout the university community that includes students, faculty and alumni. He has brought major national and international recognition to the school. His many accomplishments over the past two and a half years speak volumes about his strategic direction and ability to engage all sectors — business, philanthropy, government and the local community.
In the interest of our students, faculty, employees and the broader community, I strongly encourage my former colleagues on the board to have the courage and intellect shown by the University of Virginia's Board of Visitors when it reversed its decision to dismiss that school's popular president. The future of Morgan is in its hands.
Shirley Marcus Allen, Washington
The writer, a partner in Venture Philanthropy Partners, is a member of the Morgan State University Class of 1970.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun