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UDC begins search for new president

(Published February 26, 2001)

By PATRICE DICKENS

Staff Writer

The outgoing president of the city’s only public college says the University of the District of Columbia’s next president "should be aware of the political climate of the District of Columbia."

"That political climate is not consistent with the institute of higher education," said Julius F. Nimmons during a telephone interview after he announced his planned departure on June 30. Nimmons, a history scholar, said he will take a one-year sabbatical and then return to UDC as a professor.

While Nimmons has sometimes clashed with political leaders – including Mayor Anthony A. Williams – during his four-year tenure, he said he was not pressured to step down as has been reported elsewhere.

UDC Board of Trustees Chairman Charles J. Ogletree Jr. said the board will begin its search for a new president immediately.

In announcing his resignation during a Feb. 20 news conference, Nimmons said "over the course of the last five years, the university has made significant progress in addressing several critical challenges which were threatening is viability.

"I am proud of these accomplishments. However, in pursuit of the future interests of the university, and in view of the very stressful but productive period of my administration, it is my desire to step aside and make way for new leadership which can steer the university forward in line with the dictates of the 21st century," he said.

Currently on a quest to find Nimmons’ replacement, one thing appears certain – the board wants to recruit the best for the open position.

"We want the best talent that’s available," said trustee Eugene D. Kinlow, an alumni representative on the board.

The selection process for the new president will begin with an executive search committee and the use of an executive search firm. However, according to Kinlow, discussions also have been held about allowing the trustees, faculty, students and members of the community to all have some say in the selection process.

Kinlow said there are some who say the new president should be an academician, an excellent fundraiser, or that he should be apt in politics and networking. However, Kinlow said he believes "it would be great to have all of those things and then more."

Councilman Kevin P. Chavous, D-Ward-7, who chairs the council committee that oversees the university, thinks the new UDC president should have a world-class reputation and proven credentials in the academic community, according to Chavous chief of staff Willie Lynch.

Lynch also said "the new president should bring in a development person whose full-time job is bringing financial resources to the university."

Currently, UDC does not have a development person. Kinlow said that position was vacated due to a resignation within the last 60 days and has so far not been filled. Kinlow said he does not know if Nimmons will fill that position or if the new president will be responsible for doing so.

Nimmons took the helm as president of the university in 1996 in an acting capacity after the abrupt resignation of then-president Tilden J. LeMelle. The university was faced with serious financial problems and declining enrollment at the time. Since then, the university has improved its financial position, reduced its operating expenses, increased enrollment and reaffirmed its academic accreditation.

"We owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Nimmons for his leadership during these difficult times," trustee chairman Ogletree said. "The university community has made critically important strides and has overcome serious hurdles under his leadership."

Ogletree was not alone in his kudos to Nimmons. Mayor Anthony A. Williams also praised Nimmons for his service to D.C. residents and for his commitment to higher education. The mayor pledged to work with the Board of Trustees to achieve financial security for the university.

Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator