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New Tennessee State University Board Halts Presidential Search, Launches Quest For New Leadership

The newly-instated board of Tennessee State University has decided to stop the current search for a new president and start over.

According to the Tennessean, the decision was made unanimously, without any discussion, during a full board meeting on Friday. The move to scrap the current search and start over was recommended by a three-member ad hoc committee of trustees. This decision comes less than three months after the previous TSU board of trustees was removed by the state legislature.

All new members, who were appointed by Gov. Bill Lee, are graduates of TSU, a historically Black university. They met for the first time on April 26.

Here are the next steps for the search process:

  • Name an interim president by July 1.
  • Continue its contract with Academic Search, a national search firm hired for a previous presidential search.
  • Establish a new presidential search committee, which will encompass a variety of voices, including faculty.
  • Appoint a new president by July 1, 2025.

Trustee Marquita Qualls led the ad hoc committee that laid out the next steps Thursday for the search for a new president. Board Chair Dakasha Winton and Trustee Terica Smith were also on the committee.

“This is an historic moment in the life of TSU,” Qualls said Thursday. “For the first time in our institution’s history, our independent governing body will solely select the ninth president of Tennessee State University. This is a responsibility that we as a board of trustees do not lightly.”

Rep. Harold Love, Jr., D-Nashville, speaks with supporters of Tennessee State University before a Senate Government Operations Committee in the Cordell Hull State Office Building in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024.

It’s not clear who the new interim president will be or if that person will be named ahead of the July 1 appointment date. It’s also not clear what the new search means for the three finalists named by the previous board in March after its months-long search. The previous presidential search was abruptly paused as state Republican lawmakers passed the measure that dissolved the previous board shortly after the finalists were named.

Those finalists were Charles Gibbs, the now-former CEO of the national 100 Black Men of America, William E. Hudson, the vice president of student affairs at Florida A&M University, and Michael Torrence, the president of Motlow State Community College in Tennessee.

“This option is not a reflection of the capability of the current finalists, but more rather a step to ensure that we, as a new board, are exploring all potential candidates comprehensively,” Qualls said Thursday.

The eight new Tennessee State University Board of Trustees Board members were appointed by TN Governor Bill Lee. They are all Tennessee State alumni.

TSU President Glenda Glover is set to retire at the end of the current academic year, which wraps up on June 30. On Thursday, Qualls praised Glover for her service and leadership.

“President Glover’s tenure and her legacy are forever solidified by her being a vocal champion for students to have access to a college education and a steadfast advocate for (historically Black colleges and universities),” Qualls said.

Glover, a 1974 TSU graduate herself, took office in 2013. She called her decades-long history with the university a “50-year blessing” as she spoke before the board on Friday.

“It has been the privilege and honor of a lifetime to serve as president as Tennessee State University, my alma mater,” she said. “This is indeed more than a full circle moment for me. This is where I got my start … as a young teenager from South Memphis who aspired to change the world when I came to Tennessee State University.”

During its Friday meeting, the board also unanimously approved rising senior Tyler Vazquez as its new student trustee. Vazquez is majoring in molecular biology and premedical studies at the Dr. Levin Watkins, Jr. Institute at TSU. He plans to graduate next May.

Vazquez was selected after the board received input from the TSU Student Government Association, Glover, and other leaders.

“It’s really great to have this opportunity,” he said, as he delivered brief remarks to the board and thanked those who have supported him during his time at TSU so far.

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