Local News

Ammons: Leaving N.C. Central Bittersweet

Posted February 2, 2007 5:09 p.m. EST
Updated February 2, 2007 7:54 p.m. EST

— North Carolina Central University Chancellor James Ammons said Friday it will be tough to leave Durham to become president of Florida A&M University.

Ammons was selected Thursday over two other finalists to become the 10th president of Florida A&M. He graduated from the Tallahassee, Fla., school in 1974 and worked there as provost before taking over at N.C. Central in 2001.

"It's not going to be easy to walk away," he said. "North Carolina Central University gave me the opportunity to show my leadership skills."

Since his arrival in Durham, N.C. Central's enrollment has jumped by 58 percent, making it the fastest-growing campus in the University of North Carolina system. He credits a statewide bus tour to promote N.C. Central for boosting enrollment and said he plans to begin a similar tour in Florida.

The school also has enjoyed a $120 million building boom and has moved its athletic programs into the NCAA's Division I under Ammons' leadership. But he said he considers his greatest accomplishment to be launching a biomanufacturing training program at the university.

Some considered Ammons the quieting force when rape allegations involving members of the Duke University lacrosse team and an N.C. Central student threatened to divide the two campuses. Ammons credits the students at both universities for calming tensions.

"The way they worked together to ensure this dreadful portrayal of Durham and the relationship between NCCU and Duke would not live (was tremendous). They put it to rest," he said.

Like many, N.C. Central Board of Trustees member Eric Michaux said Ammons' departure is a loss for the university. But he said the school will be able to build on Ammons' successes.

"Quite frankly, I thought he brought vision to the university," Michaux said. "We've got a good board of trustees. He assembled a good staff on campus and put a lot of people in the right places. So, relying on those people and the vision he's already implemented at Central, we shold move forward."

UNC President Erskine Bowles also expressed regret that Ammons would no longer be leading N.C. Central.

"James Ammons has been a fantastic chancellor for N.C. Central University. We did everything we could to convince him to stay, and we hate to lose him," Bowles said in a statement. "But I know from personal experience what a privilege it is to be asked to return to your home state to lead an institution you love, and we wish him all the best."

Bowles said he would work with the N.C. Central Board of Trustees to begin a search for Ammons' successor immediately.