Tuesday, June 2, 2009

To the rescue: Raleigh looks to Charlotte

Retired Johnson C. Smith University president Dorothy Cowser Yancy is coming to the rescue of Shaw University in Raleigh. Shaw's president, Clarence Newsome, is taking a one-year, paid sabbatical as the school faces a multitude of problems, including growing debt, decaying dorms and a graduation rate of about 36 percent. Conditions at the private school so disturbed alumni that in March, some stopped donating or raising money for their alma mater.

It's no surprise Shaw is looking to Yancy for help. She became the first female president of JCSU in Charlotte in 1994, and left a legacy of fundraising and academic progress. While she was president, Smith's endowment grew from $13.8 million to $57 million - exceeding its goals for two capital campaigns (the second one going more than $5 million over its $75 million goal), admission applications rose 300 percent, historic Biddle Hall was restored, and the campus was wired for Internet access. In 2000, JCSU also became the first historically black university to be labeled a "laptop" campus, issuing IBM Thinkpads to all its students. The school was ranked among the top tier comprehensice Southern Colleges for most of her tenure, and one of the best values among Southern colleges in 2004.

When she retired in 2008, Patty Norman, former chair of the university's board of visitors lauded her: "She's probably one of the more effective fundraisers I've ever encountered. Aside from her incredible passion for the school, she's willing to go after and ask anyone for help."

That and an academic boost are no doubt what the folks at Shaw are counting on.