New FAMU president hopes to attain standards set by mentor Humphries
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Every day for the past 14 months when Larry Robinson walked to his office in Lee Hall he goes by hanging photos of some of the former presidents.
He is there too as interim president. But pretty soon when Robinson goes by those photos interim won’t be his title.
Perhaps none of the photos will stand out like Frederick Humphries, who brought Robinson to FAMU two decades ago.
This past Thursday when Robinson was named FAMU’s 12th president, he praised Humphries for his mentoring and the standards that he set at the university.
“It’s almost surreal,” Robinson said after a unanimous Board of Trustees vote for him to take the reins. “I’ve watched some great people sit in this position, particularly the person who was in it when I came, Dr. Frederick Humphries.
“To be put in anything that he has his stamp on is especially humbling when you think of it from that perspective.”
Robinson’s path to becoming president was cleared last month when the Board of Governors granted the BOT its request to bypass a search for the next president. BOT chairman Kelvin Lawson said at the time that Robinson had shown many of the qualities necessary to be considered for the job.
Unlike his two previous appointments to the interim role, the BOT put language in Robinson’s contract that cleared the way for him to be considered a candidate for the permanent role.
The board also outlined a list of initiatives that Robinson, 62, had to achieve.
“He went out working on those as if he was the permanent president, said Lawson. “It gave us the quick thought that with the level of momentum that he’s created around these initiatives he has proven to us that he is more than capable.
“He understands shared governance and communicates extremely well with our board. He is well-liked by faculty and well liked by students. The more we thought it through, it just didn’t seem logical to spend resources that we don’t have to go out and find a person sight unseen that may or may not come and be a good plug-in for our culture.”
Gregory Clark, president of FAMU’s National Alumni Association applauded the BOT’s decision. It’s a first step to bringing stability to the university, he said.
“We are ready to work with him; eager to see what he does,” Clark said. “We are comfortable with him. He knows exactly what he is doing.”
Robinson spent last weekend meeting with alumni in Texas and also met with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Filling several interim dean positions, fund-raising and putting students in the best position to attain their goals are among his priorities, Robinson said.
“We will never lose sight of the fact that we are here to support the education of our students, to get them to places where some of them had never imagined,” he said.
Several FAMU stakeholders, including the National Alumni Association and faculty overwhelmingly expressed their support for Robinson soon after he was appointed interim. At that time last fall, Humphries said he’d seen leadership qualities in Robinson.
“You have to be analytical and show you can solve problems,” Humphries said. “I think he has demonstrated that. A plethora of things were facing the university and he just ticked them off and got them done and put the university in better shape.”
Unlike his predecessor, Robinson said he will be calling on Humphries.
“He is still very, very active and I want to take advantage of all his experience and expertise that I can,” Robinson said.
He added: “Knowing that I’m the person now that’s president of Florida A&M University is hard to put in words. It’s an awesome feeling.”