Fisk University H. James Williams

Fisk University, the storied historically Black institution in Nashville, Tenn., began the yearlong celebration of its 150th anniversary on a somewhat sour note—announcing the resignation of its president of less than three years, H. James Williams.

“We have accepted Dr. Williams’ resignation and thank him for his part in the advancements of Fisk in recent years,” Barbara Landers Bowles, chairperson of the school’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement.

In an interview with The Tennessean, Bowles said Williams’ decision to part ways was “more or less mutual” and was the culmination of longstanding disagreements.

“We had some differences of opinion, and the board wanted to move in a different direction in some areas,” Bowles said. But, she added, “I think we both left in good spirits.”

The trustee also acknowledged Williams’ significant contributions to the university.

“We felt that he accomplished a lot,” she said. 

As previously reported by the AFRO, Williams assumed the university’s helm as its 15th president in February 2013. Since that time, he guided Fisk toward regaining its regional accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges in December 2013. He also increased retention rates and oversaw a 40 percent boost in enrollment rates over the three academic years he served.  The  US News and World Reports has ranked Fisk 7th in the 2015 top 10 HBCU’s in the country.

The former dean of the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., Williams leaves Fisk to pursue other opportunities in higher education, according to the university’s statement.

Board member Frank L. Sims will serve as interim president, the university announced.

Sims, 64, a retired business leader from Atlanta who spent 36 years at Cargill Inc., said he is going to focus on shoring up Fisk’s finances.