Education

Shaw chairman cites chemistry in administrative shake-up

Posted August 10, 2011 10:39 a.m. EDT
Updated August 11, 2011 10:32 a.m. EDT

— The chairman of Shaw University's board said Wednesday that a personality clash led to the sudden resignation Tuesday of President Irma McClaurin.

Board Chairman Willie Gary also said the administrative changes went beyond McClaurin, noting that her chief of staff, Mack Ward, was "asked to leave" and Vice President for Academic Affairs Marilyn Sutton-Haywood submitted her resignation. Gary said he expects Sutton-Haywood will remain with Shaw in some capacity.

"Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t with business relationships," Gary said. "This is one of those times where it just wouldn’t work. That’s all I’m going to say about that. I have no cause or issues to bring up whatsoever. It’s just in the best interest of Shaw."

Neither McClaurin nor Sutton-Haywood could be reached for comment. Ward declined to comment when reached at his home.

McClaurin was named Shaw president last September, becoming the first woman to hold the position. Shaw is among the oldest historically black colleges in the South.

"She is a hard worker. I want to say that," Gary said. "Maybe it’s (a lack of) chemistry, but it was no serious fault. We just came to the conclusion (to split). I think it was mutual, and I’m glad it was."

Although Shaw has been beset by financial difficulties in recent years – trustees pledged $2 million of their own money in 2009 to help Shaw dig out of its debt – Gary said fundraising played no part in McClaurin's departure.

"I would never put anybody’s job on the line because of fundraising with this economy," he said.

Former trustee Cornell Adams, who retired from Shaw's board in July, said money management wasn't McClaurin's strong suit. He cited exorbitant payments for utilities, among others, and said McClaurin refused to address his concerns directly.

A group calling itself Friends of Shaw released a statement late Wednesday blaming the Board of Trustees and the university's human resources officials for "a systemic lack of oversight" and said the board needs to be restructured to improve accountability and transparency.

Dorothy Yancy, who served as interim president before McClaurin's hiring, helped erase a deficit of more than $31 million in one year, and Gary said Shaw has since refinanced much of its debt.

He said he hopes Yancy, the retired president of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, will consider returning to Shaw. If not, he said, the university has a list of qualified candidates from its president search last year.

Classes resume at Shaw next week, nearly four months after a tornado ripped through the downtown Raleigh campus, destroying the Willie E. Gary Student Center, which housed the cafeteria and two dormitories.

Most other buildings on campus suffered minor damage, prompting the university to end the spring semester two weeks early. The school reopened to students in May.