Support strong for Robinson to be next FAMU president
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
There’s a consensus among many with ties to FAMU that the university’s Board of Trustees would not be making a mistake if it keeps Larry Robinson as permanent president.
There is also an overwhelming sentiment that if Robinson is the BOT’s choice it should be expeditious in removing interim from Robinson’s title, which he’s held for 14 months now.
BOT Chairman Kelvin Lawson seemingly is in favor keeping Robinson and doing so quickly.
“I believe that our board is becoming a supporter and believer in the capabilities of Dr. Robinson,” Lawson said during an interview with the Outlook. “I feel like the Board of Governors put us in a really good place.”
Lawson stopped short of saying that Robinson would be named the next president, although his choice is seemingly clear.
“I can’t speak for all of the members of the board, but as a collective body we are feeling real good today about where we are with Dr. Robinson.”
In an unprecedented move, the BOG has granted the BOT a waiver against holding a national search for a new president. The board could still hold a national search if it decides to do so, however, that doesn’t seem likely.
The board could vote on Robinson as early as Nov. 30 when it meets in Tallahassee. Many of the procedural issues have been ironed out, including an evaluation of Robinson’s performance over the last year, Lawson said.
Even if there was a national search Robinson would have an opportunity to be a candidate, a choice that his previous contracts didn’t allow. That was removed from his contract this time around, Lawson said.
Earlier this year at its annual conference, the university’s National Alumni Association unanimously endorsed Robinson for president. He also received support from the SGA, the Foundation and faculty.
At about the same time that those supporters were making their decision known, the BOT requested a waiver for the national search. The BOG made its decision this past Thursday at a meeting in Orlando.
When the BOT decided to approach the BOG, Lawson said the request was being made so that the board could have options.
“(What) we didn’t want to do is to be boxed in and be forced into doing a search if we didn’t think one was appropriate,” Lawson said.
Aubrey Perry, a retired former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences who spent 43 years in various positions at FAMU, said Robinson has proven worthy of being the next president. He pointed to the fact that Robinson is in his third tenure as interim.
“I think anyone who has served as interim president for as long as Dr. Robinson has proven his worth and ability to retain the position as permanent president,” Perry said, agreeing with the BOG’s decision. “In terms of the (waiver) process itself, it was a very logical and reasonable process to vote on.”
Perry, who worked under several presidents at FAMU, said Robinson has similar qualities as some of the best former presidents.
“Having worked through a number of presidents, I’ve been able to make reasonable decisions and judgment about the capabilities of each one of them,” he said. “I think that Dr. Robinson holds his own or exemplifies the characteristics that would be required for the movement of FAMU to the next level.”
Rev. R. B. Holmes, a former BOT member and publisher of the Outlook, also applauded the BOG’s decision.
“It’s clear to all that Dr. Robinson will be the next president of FAMU, we must support the BOG’s decision to honor the FAMU request for the option to waive a national search,” Holmes said. “Dr. Robinson has proven that he is ready for the task and he has earned the respect and faith of his board and many supporters. He has my full support.”
Perry expressed concerns about keeping the interim tag much longer on Robinson, whose contract was extended for another year. Waiting could slow down growth at the university, he said.
Henry Lewis, a former interim president in 2002, was more specific about why Robinson should be president. There are six interim deans and convincing financial donors could be difficult with so many interim heads, he said.
Naming Robinson president also would put him in a position to outline a clear vision for the university, Lewis said.
“You need that permanent person to come in and put that kind of vision forward for the university so that everybody could carry out that vision,” said Lewis, who served nine months as interim president.
Former FAMU president Frederick Humphries hired Robinson in 1997 to lead the development of the school’s Environment Science Institute. Robinson went on to hold several titles at FAMU, including his previous stints as interim president.
Since becoming interim president last fall, Robinson has made several personnel changes. Recently, he named Barbara Cohen-Pippin to succeed Tola Thompson as the university’s liaison with the Florida Legislature. Thompson left FAMU to become chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Al Lawson in Washington.
“I think Dr. Robinson has done a great job as interim; no doubt,” Lewis said. “Hopefully if he is named he will do a great job as permanent.”