The New Leaders of FSU and FAMU Look to the Future
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Another goal to improve FAMU’s standing is attracting grants to the university, which will allow the faculty to get out of the classroom to do research.
“Our (teaching) course load is four sections per semester … and that’s twice as high as most other institutions,” she says.
When asked what she would tell the parents of a National Merit Scholar to encourage their child to attend FAMU, here’s what Mangum had to say:
“A student that comes to Florida A&M University comes to first of all the seat of Florida; there are all kinds of opportunities. The student body is small enough for you to get individual attention, you get to work with faculty who are (on) the cutting edges of research if you want to, but you also have the opportunity to major in anything that you want to. We’ve got science, technology, engineering, math. We’ve got life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences. We’ve got theater, we’ve got arts. We have competitive sports teams (with) five championships this year in our conference. It’s a great place to come and to study, to learn, to make friends for life … many people meet the love of their life out here on our Set.”
At Home with Dr. Mangum
Mangum is the first president to live in FAMU’s official presidential residence since Frederick Humphries stepped down in 2001. It got an update before she arrived, and “it’s a pleasant place to live; it’s not too big that you get overwhelmed and think you’re living in an institution,” she says. It’s also very homelike for her because, “out of necessity,” the house is filled with her personal furniture. “Everything in there is mine, and it’s all modern,” she explains. “I spend more time on what I call ‘my side’ — the smaller spaces — unless I have guests.” Receptions and dinners are held on the “public side” of the house, often utilizing the home’s four patios.
Dr. Elmira Mangum receives congratulations from her three children during her inauguration as Florida A&M University president.
Florida Agricultural And Mechanical University
Off campus, Tallahassee has made the newcomer feel welcome.
“Everybody’s nice everywhere I go,” she says. “The wonderful thing about that Southern hospitality … it is here. It’s not a big-city kind of place. It’s a community, and you feel community.”
Mangum has three adult children, all settled along the East coast. “They are livin’ life; they’re all launched,” she says.
Her oldest son was an executive with a health care firm and recently graduated with an MBA. Her daughter is in her second year of residency at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and her youngest son, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina, is going to be working for the city of Chapel Hill in its parks and recreation department.
“They’re good people … that’s what I raised them to be … and they have decided to be successful, too,” Mangum says. “I’m very excited; I’m very proud of all of them.”
Mangum made the ultimate expression of maternal love in 2003 when she donated a kidney to her oldest son, Gregory Frank Daniel Jr. He was diagnosed with a form of kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS, when he was a young teen. She had been screened, so when his kidneys failed after his first year of college, “it was something I was going to do; it wasn’t even a question.” She acquired a small scar from the experience, as well as a mission to promote organ donation.
“I encourage people to, on their license, be donors,” she says. “Especially because, in the African-American community, we don’t (often choose) to be a donor. Many times the matches don’t occur for people of color because we aren’t large on the donor list, so people wait a long time for transplants.”
The only family member sharing her home is Pearl, her part-pit bull, part-boxer “designer dog.” A favorite activity is visiting Cascades Park.
“I walk there practically every time I have a free moment,” she says. “I like to be in places where you can get the serenity of watching water flow.” But it’s difficult to travel incognito when she’s walking Pearl. “Every time I went, I put my hat on and my sunglasses and everybody would still know it was me because they knew I had a dog,” she says with a smile.
In addition to walkabouts, Mangum says she also enjoys the Saturday Downtown Market, flea markets and “the small businesses that are scattered about the city.”
She has found a church home at Jacob Chapel Baptist Church on Lake Bradford Road, pastored by the Rev. O. Jermaine Simmons.
“I love that church. I do,” she says.
The Challenges Ahead
Those in the know say Mangum is a highly intelligent and effective administrator but, while affable and pleasant, she isn’t much of a schmoozer — which may have gotten her off on the wrong foot with FAMU Board of Trustees members, who nearly voted to give her a written reprimand in June for her leadership style and lack of communication.
But Mangum has friends in high places, as evidenced by a letter sent to Florida’s Board of Governors that was signed by five Florida legislators, all FAMU graduates. They said they were “deeply troubled” by the trustees’ actions and asked that the governing body of the state university system determine whether the group had overstepped its authority by going beyond policy decisions and injecting itself into the daily operations of the university.
The legislators had particular criticism for Chairman Rufus Montgomery, an Atlanta businessman appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, saying his “abrupt and ongoing challenges to her leadership are bordering dangerously close to bullying.”
Over the first year of Mangum’s presidency, the amount of money raised and number of alumni donating to their alma mater has increased. Mangum sees a major fundraising effort in FAMU’s future and recently hired a new vice president for advancement and development, who will be tasked with planning
“I’m excited about that,” she says. “We are going to be chasing quality, and in order to do that we need our alumni to participate. They have embraced the changes and understand the need for us to make changes in the institution and our approach.”