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Alcorn State president search ongoing

NATCHEZ — A search committee tasked with finding the next president of Alcorn State University will begin by hearing from faculty, staff, students and alumni on what those groups hope to see in the school’s next leader.

Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning President Aubrey Patterson appointed Friday four trustees to the board search committee.

Alcorn’s 18th president M. Christopher Brown II resigned in December amid an investigation into university purchasing.

C.D. Smith Jr., regional manager with AT&T in Meridian and committee chair, said the board’s next step would be to organize meetings with various Alcorn constituent groups to gather information and feedback.

“We’ll be getting input from them on what their thoughts are on the characteristics, traits and skill sets they’re expecting in their next president,” Smith said. “We are in the very beginning of the process, but that’s certainly an important first step.”

Smith said the board would work diligently to find a candidate who embodies the characteristics of the historic black university and will help the school continue moving forward.

“We’re always interested in leaders for all of our institutions who have integrity, who are well qualified with the appropriate credentials and have a strong desire to create a vision and move the university forward,” Smith said. “We are very proud of the progress that has been made at Alcorn, and we’re looking forward to the next leader moving even further with that continuing progress.”

Other search committee members include: Ed Blakeslee, Bob Owens and Robin Robinson.

The investigation into university purchasing practices began with the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, but has been turned over to the state Auditor’s Office and state Ethics Commission — an indication that civil or criminal penalties could be pending against those involved.

The investigation had already led to the resignation of two other Alcorn employees: special assistant for university initiatives Jeremy Mason and former Chief Financial Officer Betty Roberts.

Brett Kittredge, a spokesman for state Auditor Stacey Pickering, confirmed the auditor’s office is looking into the university’s purchasing practices, but couldn’t comment on specifics of the investigation or a timeline of when the investigation would be complete.

“We’re certainly aware of the allegations and are looking into the situation at this time,” Kittredge said.

Norris Edney, a former interim president at Alcorn and Natchez-Adams School District Board of Trustee chairman, began serving as acting president of the institution shortly after Brown’s resignation.

Edney was serving as interim dean of the university’s nursing program, which is located on the university’s Natchez campus.

According to board policy, the acting president is not eligible to apply for the permanent position.

Alcorn’s main campus is located in Lorman, with satellite campuses in Natchez and Vicksburg. The historically black university is fully accredited with seven schools and degree programs in more than 50 areas, including a nursing program.

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