Local News

Shaw names interim president

Posted June 2, 2009 9:56 a.m. EDT
Updated June 2, 2009 11:36 a.m. EDT

— Three weeks after splitting with its president, Shaw University on Tuesday picked a temporary leader to help guide the school through a financial morass.

Dorothy Cowser Yancy, the former president of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, was named interim president of Shaw, becoming the first female president of the university in its 144-year history.

"We're going to build upon what we have, and we're going to move forward," Yancy told a crowd of supporters on Shaw's downtown Raleigh campus. "We have a lot of work to do. ... Whatever it takes is what we're going to have to do."

Willie Gary, chairman of Shaw's Board of Trustees, said Yancy "has a history of making a difference in higher education," and he said luring her out of retirement to take the helm at Shaw was a coup by university officials.

Yancy retired from Johnson C. Smith 11 months ago after 13 years as president. During her tenure, she increased academic standards,  expanded technology on campus, tripled the endowment and completed two record-setting capital campaigns.

"We've chosen a lady who was born to lead," Gary said. "Nobody can get it done any better."

Former Shaw President Clarence Newsome left the university on May 12 amid growing discontent among students and staff and a $20 million debt. He had been at Shaw since 2003.

In December, Shaw laid off a number of employees, gave others a pay cut and suspended retirement benefits. Dozens of students also protested about poor living conditions in university dorms.

Each of Shaw's 40 trustees has pledged to contribute $50,000 to the university and to raise additional funds, and Gary said faculty, staff and alumni also would be asked to do more.

Gary said with a laugh that he hoped Shaw wouldn't need to conduct a search for Newsome's successor, but Yancy said she was interested only in stabilizing Shaw and handing the reins to whomever is chosen as the university's 14th president.

Founded in 1865 as one of the first black colleges in the South, Shaw has about 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students.