In January 2019, Saint Augustine’s President President Everett B. Ward announced that he was retiring after five years leading his alma mater. The Falcon Forum last week sat down recently with Dr. Ward to talk about his decision and other matters.
Q.What are your plans for post retirement?
A. After working for 35 years, I finally decided that it was time to officially retire. I want to travel, write and eventually teach. I had the pleasure of being a speaker at NC State about the civil rights movement, as well as one year I taught a class with a professor here about civil rights. I really enjoyed it.
Q. Do you feel as if you accomplished all you set out to do as president of Saint Augustine’s.
A. I have and, you know, that weighed heavily on my decision for retirement. When I arrived at the university I had three major goals: to remove us from probationary status…. we accomplished that in December of last year. To enhance and better a establish a relationship with the Episcopal Church….the church has now named a standing committee for a council to help HBCUs, specifically to support Saint Augustine’s and Voorhees College. And, third, to broaden our relationship with the community….Alumni donations have increased; it has been phenomenal and, although there is still work that has to be done, I am confident it will be. We have made major strides, such as the revamping of the Tuttle Public Health Building as well as the communications department’s radio station, television station and even the newspaper. So I have accomplished all that I set out to do at Saint Augustine’s. I have been focused on what I want to accomplish and once you have done that, it’s time to move on.
Q. As the school is featured on the news for various things from unstable floors to mold in dorms, what would you like to say to students who are feeling discouraged by these recent negative stories? A. Well I think, first of all, I would like to say if there is anything that is clear it’s that I listen to students’ concerns. Saint Augustine’s has had major infrastructure issues for a long time. …Latham Hall and Weston Hall are over 25, 30 years old; we have a plan in place to help those dormitories out. We will get past this. We will take care of this, and make sure our students are always taken care of. Q. What are your favorite moments as president of Saint Augustine’s?
A. There are so many…But I think that the one I look forward to every year, because of my lineage is here, is when I walk with students to the poll. And when you exercise your right to vote….we are helping to develop intellectual scholars to go into the world, no matter where they are. And why this matters so much to me is because I was the first president of the College Federation of Young Democrats…It was not about political affiliation. It was about civic awareness and engagement. When we walk to the polls, when students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, these moments will be with me to my grave.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to say?
A. Change is something that will always happen. President Obama once said, ‘We are the change that we have been seeking.’ I am paraphrasing, of course, but change is critical. There is an infrastructure in place in for a smooth transition. It is not about the person but the institution. I have learned from my two mentors that presidents come and go, that the institution must always be more important than the individual.
— Elyscia Vaughn Brown