by Max Brantley
UPDATE II: Here's the Dillard release, which says Kimbrough is expected to start there July 1. Philander Smith, which has a statement on the jump, says Kimbrough will finish this school year in Little Rock, working through May 31. Twitter is full of comments by Dillard students commenting favorably on the choice.
What I wrote early this morning:
I saw a Twitter feed last night that said Dillard University in New Orleans would be announcing a new president this morning.
Why notice at all? Because Dr. Walter Kimbrough, president of Philander Smith College, has been on the radar of a number of college job searches because of the strong job he's done at Little Rock's historically black college. Kimbrough has been president at Philander since 2004. He's been lauded in the prestigious Chronicle of Higher Education and won headlines for his social justice initiative, along with his "hip hop" lecture series.
Dillard would be a move up for Kimbrough, who's only 44. It's long been considered one of the country's top historically black colleges and universities and recently won a $25 million National Institutes of Health grant to research disparities in health care.
PS — After the news, Dillard students began commenting on Twitter. They like Kimbrough's Twitter handle, hiphopprez. Example:
what_tha_DUCK Summer Rayne
RT @_RoxxStar: The fact that DU's new President's twitter name is @HipHopPrez makes me like him instantly
ON THE JUMP: Philander Smith's statement:
Philander Smith College announced today that its president of seven years, Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough, will soon move on to take the helm of another private, historically black institution, Dillard University in New Orleans. Kimbrough’s last day at Philander Smith will be May 31, 2012.
“It is tough to leave a place you love, but in order for both Philander Smith College and myself to grow, we need new experiences,” said Kimbrough. “Dillard is a great, highly ranked liberal arts university, and being located in New Orleans which is ground zero for social justice after Hurricane Katrina, this opportunity was one I could not resist. Plus, my wife’s family is in Mobile which is two hours away, and it will be great for our two children to be closer to lots of family.”
Kimbrough came to Little Rock and Philander Smith College in 2004 to replace Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed. He previously served at Albany State University in Albany, Ga., where he was vice president of student affairs. After seven years with Kimbrough as president, Philander Smith College boasts an increased residential student population, enhanced quality of the student body and sound fiscal position, along with a stable faculty, innovative administrators, and an engaged board of trustees. Additionally, the Bless the Mic lecture series started in 2005 shortly after his arrival continues to soar in popularity. Kimbrough says the series will remain a campus staple, as will the social justice mission introduced in 2007 along with its accompanying “Think Justice” brand identity.
“These are attributes that belong to Philander Smith College which add to the strength and character of this institution. There were lots of people involved in making this college great. Several key and solid players are here still making this a great campus.”
“Philander Smith has made great strides under Dr. Kimbrough's leadership,” said Bob Birch, chair of the Board of Trustees. “Graduation and retention rates have improved, entering freshman test scores are up, and two new dorms have been completed and fully occupied. We are very excited for Walter and his family to have this opportunity to advance to a larger institution. Dillard will likewise benefit from his guidance. The Board of Trustees, working with Dr. Kimbrough, will immediately begin the search for the next great leader for Philander Smith College.”
Meanwhile, Philander Smith College remains poised to handle the transition. This year’s freshman class is the second largest in the college’s history, with 206 first-time students enrolled. The school’s total enrollment now stands at 730.
“It is bittersweet to leave now, but the timing is also right,” said Kimbrough. “Philander Smith College is a wonderful institution with a rich heritage and even brighter future. I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity to serve as president. I’ve made memories that I will cherish for a lifetime.”