Morehouse College’s board of trustees voted unanimously to appoint Harold Martin Jr. as its new interim president, the school announced in a Thursday (June 29) press conference.
Martin, Morehouse’s valedictorian in 2002, who later earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a law degree from Yale, is the school’s third president in as many months. He replaces William “Bill” Taggart, who died in June from an aneurysm in his Atlanta home.
Taggart, 55, became the Atlanta college’s interim president in April after the board voted to end then-president John S. Wilson’s contract two months before it expired.
“We’ve been raising a lot of money,” interim president Harold Martin Jr. told reporters, referring to the board of trustees. “Our advancement organization is fired up and ready to go. If there’s a donor or foundation in Atlanta or across the country who’s excited about our mission or who we can get excited about our mission, they are going to hear from us.”
Joining Martin at the news conference were several Morehouse community leaders, including faculty trustee member David Wall Rice, board chairman Willie Woods, Morehouse National Alumni Association president Howard Willis and Student Government Association president Kamren Rollins.
Martin will take on the day-to-day leadership responsibilities for the college until a new president is hired. Dorothy Cowser Yancy, a longtime board member and former president of Shaw University and Johnson C. Smith University, will serve as a senior advisor to Martin.
When asked about the timetable for a permanent president, trustee-board Chair William Woods said that the college is taking its time with the search, which is “one of the great things about having someone as capable as Martin.”
The presence of Rollins, who referred to Martin as a man who “loves Morehouse” and is “passionate about his work,” was a major step in easing the tension that has existed between students and the administration since January.
The college has been searching for a president since a recent controversy in which Morehouse’s faculty expressed a “no confidence” vote in the faculty, prompting some of the institution’s more prominent alumni—including Samuel L. Jackson and Spike Lee—to call for change. The result was a dismantling of leadership, from President John S. Wilson to the entire board of trustees.
Martin, who joined the board in 2014 and was the board’s secretary, has resigned his seat on the board, the college said. He is the son of Dr. Harold Lee Martin Sr., the 12th chancellor of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, NC.
“I will continue to execute on this plan in the days and weeks ahead and look forward to working with Morehouse’s Board, students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni and donors to solidify Morehouse’s position as an academic leader during this pivotal time in our College’s history,” Martin said.