St. Aug's chairman: 'You can't have two presidents'

Posted March 19, 2019 12:19 p.m. EDT
Updated March 19, 2019 6:36 p.m. EDT

— The chairman of the St. Augustine’s University Board of Trustees denied Wednesday that former President Everett Ward was forced out of office last week, despite the board asking him to resign four months before his planned retirement.

"You can't have two presidents," James Perry said at a news conference to introduce Gaddis Faulcon as interim president. "We couldn’t bring the interim in as long as the sitting president was here. You can’t have two people sitting at the same seat."

Ward had served as the historically black university’s president since 2014, and he said in January that he would retire July 24.

But the board named Faulcon as interim president last week and asked Ward to step aside immediately.

Perry said that, as the budget process for the next school year gets underway, trustees felt they should let Faulcon put together a proposed 2019-20 budget for St. Augustine's since he would be the one tasked with sticking to the spending plan.

"It's really about accountability," Perry said. "We have to look out for the best interests of the university."

The search process for a new university president will take about a year, he said.

Ward hasn't returned phone calls from WRAL News seeking comment.

Faulcon said he is excited about the opportunity to lead his alma mater, even if it's only on a temporary basis.

"St. Augustine's has done so much for me, I would be remiss if I tried to turn down this opportunity," he said.

He previously served as vice president of enrollment management at the school, as well as interim president of rival Shaw University from 2014 to 2015.

"Everything I do will be student-centered," he said. "They're first, and everybody else will have to line up behind them."

Ward has been credited with increasing enrollment and fundraising at St. Augustine's after years of challenges. The changes helped remove the school from probation by its accreditation agency in December.

Faulcon said he wants to take advantage of that momentum and continue moving the university forward "with one heartbeat."

"The vision is always moving forward," he said, "giving students an opportunity to reach their fullest potential through education and through the quality education that we have here."

St. Augustine's officials held a closed-door meeting with alumni and staff after the news conference. One person said upon leaving that the meeting became heated at times and that many people wished the leadership change would have been made during the summer break.