ITTA BENA — The College Board unanimously voted yesterday to appoint William Bynum as the next president of Mississippi Valley State University.
Bynum, most recently vice president of enrollment management and student services at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, was confirmed after meeting with students, faculty and alumni in Itta Bena.
“It is an awesome blessing to be the seventh president of Mississippi Valley State University. I prepared for this, obviously, for my lifetime,” said Bynum, who has been part of programs to prepare presidents for colleges that serve minority populations.
Shane Hooper, of Tupelo, the College Board member who led the search committee that chose the 51-year-old Bynum, said Bynum was the right person to reverse the declining number of students at Mississippi’s smallest public university.
“He’s coming to us with more than 25 years of experience,” Hooper said. “He has a proven track record in enrollment and enrollment is what the Valley needs right now. We’ve got to increase the enrollment before we can do some other things we want to do.”
Bynum was chosen in a closed search as the sole finalist from among more than 70 applicants. He left his position at Morehouse earlier this year when John Wilson took over as president there; Bynum a difference in philosophy. Wilson, though, supported Bynum’s candidacy at Valley.
“Dr. Bynum was an effective leader at Morehouse,” Wilson said in a statement issued by the College Board. “I expect that he will be a student-friendly president with an impressive vision and execution strategy for Mississippi Valley State University.”
Besides stopping the school’s sharp enrollment decline, Bynum will also have to unite a fractured alumni base and cultivate more donations. Roosevelt Yarbrough, the president of Valley’s alumni association, denounced Bynum’s nomination last week. Bynum said the school needed an alumnus to lead it and voiced concern that most of Bynum’s experience was at private universities outside Mississippi.
The College Board declined to renew Valley President Donna Oliver’s contract in 2012. Alfred Rankins Jr., the board’s associate commissioner for academic and student affairs, has been acting president.
College Board spokeswoman Caron Blanton said Bynum will start full-time on Nov. 6. He’ll make at least $205,000 a year, although Blanton says Higher Education Chancellor Hank Bounds is negotiating with Valley’s foundation to increase the salary with donations.
Bynum said he plans to attend this weekend’s football game between Valley and Jackson State University to meet more of the university’s supporters. He said he plans to meet with Rankins to coordinate a transition, with plans to write a more detailed plan of what he hopes to accomplish.
“The most exciting thing for folk to hear is I plan on living on campus from Day One,” Bynum said. “I will be a highly visible and involved president.”
Valley is building a new president’s house, but Bynum said he would live in another faculty house on campus until it’s complete. Oliver drew criticism for renting an apartment in Greenwood rather than living on the campus.
Bynum earlier worked at Lincoln University in southeastern Pennsylvania, and before that at Clark Atlanta University and at Davidson College in North Carolina. The sociologist earned his bachelor’s degree from Davidson and his master’s degree and doctorate from Duke University.