Alcorn president resigns amid investigation

Published 12:14am Friday, December 20, 2013

LORMAN — Alcorn State University President M. Christopher Brown II resigned Thursday amid an investigation into university purchasing practices.

The resignation was announced Thursday by Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds.

“We have an ongoing investigation into some expenditures and purchases and all that information has been turned over to the state auditor’s office and state Ethics Commission,” Bounds said. “Change is always difficult, but we’ll get through this and remain a strong institution going forward.”

Brown did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday. In a resignation letter dated Wednesday, he said he wanted to resign because “the emergent management focus on internal operations confirms that now is an ideal time to transition.”

Bounds said a continuing investigation into purchasing practices has already led to the resignation of two other Alcorn employees. They include special assistant for university initiatives Jeremy Mason and former Chief Financial Officer Betty Roberts.

Bounds said the College Board has turned over its findings to state Auditor Stacey Pickering and the state Ethics Commission. That’s an indication that civil or criminal penalties could be pending against those involved.

Brett Kittredge, a spokesman for Pickering, confirmed the auditor’s office has begun an inquiry.

Norris Edney, a former interim president at Alcorn State and Natchez-Adams School District Board of Trustee chairman, was named acting president immediately. Edney was serving as interim dean of the university’s nursing program.

College Board President Bob Owens will appoint a search committee to begin a search for Brown’s successor.

“I want to assure the faculty, staff, students and alumni that the board is committed to moving quickly to begin the search process for the next president of Alcorn State University,” Bounds said. “This process won’t be delayed at all, and we will move very, very quickly.”

Brown led Alcorn State since 2010 and brought national recognition to the 5,000-student land-grant university in southwest Mississippi. Alcorn was named the historically black college of the year in 2012, and recruited Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of Medgar Evers, to join its faculty.

The College Board has hosted a series of closed meetings in recent weeks to discuss the Alcorn situation.

The board said it was discussing personnel issues, a clue that Brown’s job was in peril because the board appoints presidents at each of Mississippi’s eight universities. Before becoming president of Alcorn State, Brown was provost at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., and dean of education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Alcorn’s main campus is located in Lorman, with satellite campuses in Natchez and Vicksburg.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.