Will Brown be future of Alcorn?

Published 12:41 am Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Alcorn supporters likely know more about the state’s process for hiring a university president than they ever desired to know.

It’s a long, somewhat complicated process, but it has become familiar in Lorman and Natchez.

With three presidents and two interim presidents in five years, the search for “the one” seems like it’s been going on forever.

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Monday’s news gave us all a bit of déj vu. “Preferred candidate announced” was the headline in 2007 when George Ross accepted the job.

Shortly thereafter, Ross battled cancer, and an interim was hired in his stead.

Ross won his battle and officially became the university’s president at the start of 2008, only to announce his resignation in 2009.

And the cycle began again.

A new “preferred candidate” is waiting in the wings — M. Christopher Brown.

And Brown seems to be an astute observer of the Alcorn situation, saying, if hired, he would like to lead Alcorn for at least 10-15 years.

Brown pointed to many other historically black colleges that have shown success, such as Xavier University in New Orleans, saying they have benefited from long-term leadership of a president. Norman Francis has served as president of Xavier for 42 years, Brown said.

Alcorn fans will remember another long-timer — Clinton Bristow.

Before his sudden death in 2006, Bristow led the university for 11 years. And it showed.

Bristow, a bit of a charmer, was considered a visionary by many Natchez business and civic leaders.

One of his biggest accomplishments was the development of the graduate business degree program in Natchez. The school’s new building opened only months before Bristow’s death.

The relationship between Alcorn and Natchez was an important one to Bristow and reached its strongest point during his leadership.

Natchez native and interim ASU president Norris Edney has made steps to build that partnership up again recently, but it will take a permanent, long-time president to make it a true reality.

Maybe Brown is the man.

He’s not officially been hired yet, but “preferred candidate” means he’s practically president.

The only step remaining for Brown is a campus visit in order to meet with students, faculty and community leaders.

And that may very well be the most important step in the process.

Brown needs to convince us all that he means what he says about a 10-15 year career at Alcorn. He must prove that he’ll be around longer than the last guy.

He needs to be a bit of a charmer.

Alcorn needs intelligent, committed stability in the worst way.

Brown must come ready to do what is best for the education of the students, regardless of whose toes must be crushed or which tight budget must be tightened.

Brown professes himself to be a student of the historically black educational system, and that knowledge will surely come in handy.

But the time to turn his studies into action may be quickly approaching.

Alcorn deserves the best, and here’s to hoping they’ve found it.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.