In honor of their 150th anniversary as a HBCU, Bowie State University hosted a presidents’ forum with present and past HBCU presidents to discuss various topics. There were four speakers: Bennett College President Dr. Rosalind Fuse-Hall, Kentucky State University Retired President Dr. Mary Evans Sias, Cheyney University Interim President Dr. Frank G. Pogue ,and White House Initiative on Historically Black College and Universities Executive Director Dr. George E. Cooper.
The BSU Fine and Performing Arts Center filled to capacity with students, staff, parents and residents.
Silas explained to the audience how important HBCUs are in society. “Without HBCUs we would not have the opportunity to have this conversation today,” Silas said. “More than half of this country’s school teachers are produced by HBCUs. We are talking about a group of institutions that have done a great deal for his country. We produce a lot of quality people in this country.”
Under Sias’ leadership at Kentucky State University (KSU), the Princeton Review ranked KSU one of the top colleges in the Southeast, it was named one of the nation’s top HBCUs by U.S. News & World Report, and was offered their first doctoral program.
Pogue, with over 50 years of higher education experience, spoke on the topic of supporting each other. “Too many of us lead in the middle of the night,” Pogue told the audience. “We must come together to make sure we support each other. HBCUs are the only history we have. The number one threat is that we have lost 90 percent of the students who attended HBCUs.”
Pogue, president of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania for 11 years, is the first African-American president at a traditionally White university in the state. His success and achievements at the university resulted in a new student center being named for him after his retirement.
Fuse-Hall discussed the importance of alumni support for their alma mater.
“Nationally alumni give back 14 percent of the time,” told the audience. “If you buy a ticket you become a donor. If you come through our doorways, you become alumni. We send letters out within 24 hours to people who donate to us.”
Cooper said, “We have given out the most money in Pell Grants since President Obama has been in office,” he said. “He is committed to have students attending HBCUs.
Cooper also discussed a ‘rating system’ for colleges, that compares institutions with each other. This system will track a number of metrics, including tuition costs, graduation rates, student debt, and the earnings of recent graduates. “This system will impact all institutions and not just HBCUs,” Cooper said.
BSU President Dr. Mickey L. Burnim closed the forum with a few words for the crowd to remember. “We must have an abundance of alumni support,” Burnim said. “We need better campus cohesion. There will be times when we have disagreements, but for the of the institution, we should keep those disagreements in house and discuss them and fix them.”