Founder of FAMU’s World-Renown SBI Dies

Sybil C. Mobley

Sybil C. Mobley


Staff Report

Sybil C. Mobley, founder and former dean of Florida A&M University’s School of Business & Industry, died Tuesday, Sept. 29 after an illness.

Mobley, 89, who was credited with bringing FAMU’s SBI to a world-renowned stage, died at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare. Two memorial services have been planned for this week. The first service is Thursday, Oct. 8, at Lee Hall Auditorium from 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Then, a celebration of life service is planned for noon Friday, Oct. 9 at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.

Mobley began working at FAMU in 1963. She retired from FAMU in 2003 and was later named dean emeritus.

During her tenure, FAMU’s business school was unaccredited yet still heralded by publications such as Fortune, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Florida Trend Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and several others. At the helm of the university’s business school, Mobley established a powerhouse program, developed a staff that looked up to her and forged a business school that occupies more than 130,000 square feet on campus.

At the pinnacle of Mobley’s tenure, the program ranked in the top 3-5 percent nationally. A New York Times article proclaimed SBI “in the top five” business schools and one that American companies say the top business schools would do well to emulate.

Mobley was credited with demanding “a high degree of excellence.” Her methods brought money to the business school. The “big board” of plaques from corporate sponsors exists as testimony of how Mobley asked for corporate sponsors. Each plaque costs $100,000 plus another $50,000 in matching dollars from the state. Mobley’s former staff would proclaim that she was genius to ensure those dollars weren’t spent.

They said she would tell Fortune 500 leaders, “SBI is not for sale. You’ve got to work to get this.”

Mobley meant that she wanted companies to remember students for internships and jobs. A 1998 Fortune Magazine article said that Mobley, “insists that companies offer her students high-paying, structured internships – not just over the summer but throughout the year. Corporations are also expected to provide summer jobs for her faculty, to donate real case studies to be used as course material, to help shape the curriculum, and to be available when a FAMU student or professor has a pertinent question.”

CEOs and human resources leaders determined that FAMU’s SBI was “like a finishing school.” To that point Mobley is quoted by Fortune magazine as having said, “At one time we were condemned – people said we were sacrificing our academic integrity (by working so closely with companies). But now other schools are trying to be more like ours.


Because the truth is, we have analyzed corporate America more accurately than other schools; we understand their needs. They feel we produce a product they are comfortable with.”

Mobley is survived by three children: James Mobley Jr., Janet Sermon and Rev. Edward Mobley. She is also survived by 14 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Tallahassee Democrat, Fortune and Newsweek magazines contributed to this report.