by G. Andrews
Tallahassee Fl—Renowned scientist and research scholar Larry Robinson, Ph.D. is now the Interim President of Florida A&M University. On September 15, the FAMU Board of Trustees appointed the distinguished professor following a 10-1 vote to place Elmira Mangum, Ph.D. on administrative leave until her contact expires on March 31, 2017. Mangum agreed to the plan that also included a year’s sabbatical followed by a teaching position as a tenured faculty member.
Mangum’s 29-month term was marred by a barrage of controversy and her inability to effectively communicate with the board or apprise them of the changes she made at the University. The result was two poor performance evaluations by two different boards and a tense 6-month effort to reach an agreement on her departure.
Speaking to the board on that day, Robinson pledged transparency and a commitment to reinforce the universities’ legacy of excellence. “FAMU has a long tradition of excellence, and I am committed to ensuring that, that tradition continues as we focus on the future. We have a lot of work to do to ensure that you are aware of what we are doing. That also means putting the right people in place to do the best job.”
Robinson was already on the job a day later in Mobile, Alabama making the rounds, visiting students, alumni and supporters at the 5th Quarter Classic game between FAMU and Tuskegee University.
This makes the third time Robinson has been asked to lead the nation’s top HBCU. He also served as provost and before that headed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a 2010 appointment by President Barak Obama. Known as “The Fixer,” the nuclear chemist has been able to navigate FAMU through serious crisis. The hazing scandal that triggered an accreditation probation was reversed when he implemented a successful national model to expose and stem the violent culture. And he kept an eye on the future with a strategic agenda that landed FAMU at the forefront of the innovation matrix. With government funding in steady decline, Robinson has initiated a variety of research initiatives and fundraising efforts that have brought the university millions.
Recruited in 1997 by higher education icon former President Frederick Humphries, Robinson embraced the university family by engaging students, faculty, staff and alumni. Being a popular leader is the result. Robinson also says he relishes the challenges ahead and will be “checking in” with stakeholders to keep FAMU on the path to excellence.