Hampton has named a new president. So how come we haven’t heard about it?

Rumors about the HBCU community come a dime a dozen, but if there’s any truth to the speculation circulating around Hampton University, it could prove to be a mess with premium, long-term costs for one of the nation’s most venerable institutions. 

A growing number of alumni and faculty say that a president has been chosen to succeed long-standing leader William R. Harvey, who will retire in June. A name has emerged but hasn’t been confirmed by the university’s board of trustees, which has been silent from the start about the search process and the candidates who may have been involved. 

Insiders say that the presidential pick is a Hampton alumnus and high-ranking member of the military. He doesn’t have higher education experience and emerged as the preferred candidate in a finalist pool that included current and former presidents. 

There’s no way to predict what the board’s calculus is, but it is difficult to make it all add up. Hampton is saying goodbye to one of the longest-serving presidents in history and hello to a new era of leadership, but without the heraldry or transparency one would expect for these goings and comings. 

Hampton has great ambitions and important work to accomplish in the next few years. Program accreditations, enrollment growth, research classifications, and revenue growth are some of the areas for urgent attention and would be challenging tasks even for an experienced president, much less one with no exposure to higher education leadership. 

There are examples of non-traditional presidents excelling at HBCUs. Paul Quinn College and Michael Sorrell are the contemporary models of what worked for Virginia State Univerity under Eddie Moore.  But those schools aren’t Hampton and even in their success to confront high stakes of sustainability, they weren’t asked to do so with a lens of students, alumni, faculty, and supporters who look at Hampton through a lens as tinted with Ivy League sensibility as any HBCU can reasonably create. 

There are some Hampton subgroups who hoped that this search would’ve yielded the university’s first woman CEO or at least a more youthful take on the Harvey Way. How do these failed hopes extend in a community where some feel may substitute Harvey’s no-nonsense compassion and fiscal conservatism with military-style dictatorship? 

HBCUs and higher education operate within too much gray area to hire someone whose career has been defined by achieving black and white outcomes that are typically predefined by operational standards and metrics. Student achievement, faculty empowerment, alumni engagement, and community enhancement aren’t managed that way and never will be. 

Hampton is not a reclamation project, and neither is its presidency. Considering what we don’t know and haven’t yet heard about this search, maybe these things are more fragile and more in question than we’ve known.

8 thoughts on “Hampton has named a new president. So how come we haven’t heard about it?

  1. This is extremely sad news. The primary value is the student. Where are the activists in this matter?

  2. The content of this article is vague and structured more like an editorial than a factual piece of data. Sometimes writings of this nature are designed to generate sensationalism and sales.

  3. Our military has provided top leaders in the last two decades, and as a 27 year military spouse and faculty member of an HBCU, I would be happy to serve with a top military leader who is an HBCU graduate. One thing I know for sure, you do not make it to the top in the US Military as a minority without being living, breathing Black Excellence in leadership, scholarship, service, and character. Strategic plans are their expertise, and leading and mentoring are pillars of strength, a model that every University needs, HBCU or not.

  4. I don’t necessarily disagree with the comment above and respect the military but let’s be frank. The military is government employment, which unless the country’s at war, has fairly predictable career trajectories and outcomes. Salaries and promotions are transparent, and personal anxiety over day to day living and housing expenses is virtually non-existent I’ll match a 30 year veteran of the business community or entrepreneur against a similar military person and pick the biz vet every time. In my opinion, that person not only has the requisite leadership chops but is also more nuanced and experienced with a wider range of people and unpredictable outcomes.

  5. As an Alum I am confident that we will select the right man or woman. Remember General Samuel Armstrong Cooper was military!

  6. Hampton Alumni Wake Up! We would all feel better about this selection if we had demanded greater transparency and communication from former President Harvey and the Board of Trustees. Who are the individuals on the Board? I have been asking that question for years. Who was on the presidential search committee And What Was the Criteria and qualities they were looking for and WHO Provided input? Hopefully, this selection will work out. It could be that our only hope that it will work out is the fact that he is an alumnus of our great “home by the sea”. But, on the surface, it looks like he would have fit in better as president at Virginia Military Institute. Time will tell. I wish him well. Hampton alumni wake up!

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