Students and alumni of Morehouse College are shocked to learn of the sudden exit of president Dr. John S. Wilson. Wilson and the board had previously announced that he would be leaving after his contract expired in June. His exit has come three months early as William “Bill” Taggart, the school’s chief operating officer, will take over the day-to-day operations at Morehouse College.
Wilson’s term as president of Morehouse College was filled with many positives that included the trend of steady fundraising and the historical visit of then-sitting President Barack Obama as a commencement speaker. However, many alumni were unhappy with Wilson’s tenure for various reasons and the college continued to suffer significant financial issues and a downgrade by Moody’s Investor Service of its creditworthiness to a negative outlook of Ba1. The firm noted in August 2016 that “The negative outlook reflects fundamental challenges in the college’s student market and limited financial flexibility to compete in a fiercely competitive student market for a narrow niche. Further credit pressure is likely if the college is unable to successfully execute its new strategy to grow revenue through an increased focus on fundraising.” The cost to attend Morehouse College can be as much as $46,000/year for a full-time on-campus student for the elite 2,000-plus student body.
In an open letter to the Morehouse College community, board chairman Robert Davidson wrote, “I want to acknowledge some of the concerns raised by students and faculty related to the Board’s decision process regarding President Wilson’s contract. There are long-standing measures in place that provide guidance on participation in Board decision-making and these guidelines exist to protect confidentialities, eliminate potential conflicts of interest, and to ensure that those who cast votes hold no bias. It is important to note that leading up to the vote, the input of students, faculty, and others was taken into account. In fact, prior meetings leading up to our January session included students, faculty, and others to discuss the matter. Overall, the full board has been engaged in a comprehensive review of the facts and future direction of Morehouse College over the course of several Board meetings for the past two years. During our January meeting, a majority voted to invest in a new future for Morehouse. We are grateful to President Wilson for his significant contributions as president of Morehouse College and wish him continued success. He leaves our institution with a solid foundation upon which to build.”
Morehouse College is currently searching for a permanent replacement to fill the position of president of the historic institution. Wilson recently made national news with an open letter describing his concerns after a meeting of HBCU presidents and President Donald Trump last week in the Oval Office. The meeting was seen by many to be a photo-op for Trump that had no commitment for increased funding.