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N.C. Central's Ammons Picked to Lead FAMU

Florida A&M University's Board of Trustees has named James H. Ammons, an alumnus of FAMU and chancellor of North Carolina Central University, as its new president.

Alexis Jenkins/the Famuan
James H. Ammons was named Florida A&M University's 10th president with a majority vote of the Board of Trustees.
In a close vote on Feb. 1, Ammons won the votes of a seven-member majority on the 13-member board, making him the 10th president in FAMU history. Thelma B. Thompson, president of the University of Maryland - Eastern Shore, received 6 votes. Howard C. Johnson, provost at the University of North Texas, was the third finalist.

"It was a very close vote, which is indicative of the quality of candidates who were brought to us today," said Challis Lowe, who chairs the FAMU board and is executive vice president of human resources at Dollar General Corp.

However, the student newspaper, the Famuan, editorialized, "We must ask ourselves if his selection was based on his qualifications and vision or his friendships and ties to the University. . . . We have been led by our own to the low point we rest in now," citing "old problems" such as recruitment, financial management and retention.

"Let us hope that Ammons' solutions for the school's plethora of issues will provide a fresh perspective on a storied University."

Ammons's last day at North Carolina Central has not been set, pending further negotiation with FAMU officials.

At a news conference at the Durham, N.C., campus on Feb. 2, Ammons said he wished to stay at North Carolina Central to preside at the graduation of the spring 2007 class on May 5.

"I will always be grateful to North Carolina Central; they have shaped me," Ammons said.

Ammons spoke about his plans for FAMU on Feb. 1 as each of the three finalists interviewed for two hours before the FAMU trustees, answering questions about fundraising, fiscal policy, faculty involvement and student retention.

"I plan to engage a fundraising counsel to come in and answer some of the University's questions toward direct funding," Ammons said.

While at North Carolina Central, Ammons helped raise $17.8 million. He said his strategy for FAMU would be to restore business relationships and establish new ones. Ammons emphasized fiscal soundness.

Between interviews, board members took time to walk around and speak with members of the audience.

After the interviews, the trustees wrote out their final choices on green sheets of paper and handed them to Board Liaison Kimberlee D. Borland, who tallied them.

Borland read the votes to the board as audience members counted aloud and held up their fingers to keep score. The crowd cheered and applauded when the seventh vote for Ammons was read.

The seven who supported Ammons were Phillip Agnew, Alberto Cardenas, Mary Diallo, Pamela Duncan, the Rev. R.B. Holmes, William Jennings and Spurgeon McWilliams.

Ammons said he planned to look to the private sector, saying, "the university should not be dependent on the government for funding."

He emphasized the importance of alumni relations. "Alumni in the business world can guide you to the right people," Ammons said.

He promised an open door to alumni in order to build key business relationships outside of the university. "Alumni are a major stakeholder group in the life of the University," he said.

"Need-based financial aid must be administered in an efficient way," Ammons continued.

He said he would invest in professionals to administer those programs.

In the area of leadership, Ammons said, "We have to be concerned about the pipeline." He said blacks have to build up one another.

"When you look at African Americans," he said, "we still have a long way to go."

Ammons opposed an idea from the Board of Governors that a separate group of colleges be dedicated solely to undergraduate education.

"We would have to disagree with any report that would limit Florida A&M University's ability to deliver under higher programs and only agree to programs that help FAMU to move upward," he said.

The trustees must ratify the vote at their March 8 meeting, said LeNedra Carroll, university spokeswoman.

Contract negotiations will take place between now and March.

Carroll said the current contract with Interim President Castell V. Bryant provides for Bryant to serve until the end of the school year or until a new president is chosen.

"Her plans are to return into retirement," Carroll said.

"Now that Ammons has been chosen, there is a lot of excitement about moving ahead."

Carnell Hawthorne Jr., a student at Florida A&M University, is news editor of the Famuan. Rony Camille of the Campus Echo at North Carolina Central University contributed to this story. To comment, e-mail [email protected]

Posted Feb. 2, 2006

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