BY JAMES HARPER
Bethune-Cookman University’s Board of Trustees’ decision to ask Interim President Dr. Edison Jackson to be the school’s permanent president is welcome news to many Daytona Beach residents and supporters of the school.
Upon learning that Jackson had accepted the position, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry said the president’s unique vision, transformational style of leadership and unparalleled experience are a perfect fit for B-CU and the greater Daytona Beach area.
“I think the school and the community have hit the jackpot. His emphasis on economic development along with his desire to attract top-tier students will help lift the school to the elite status that he has envisioned,” Henry said.
“I look forward to supporting his goals for the university and working with him to bridge the gap between the university and the community and feel strongly that he will serve as pioneering leader and mentor for the students.’’
Jackson told the Daytona Times exclusively on Feb. 21 that “if asked, I will serve.”
B-CU Board of Trustees Chairman John W. Harrington announced March 20 that the board had voted unanimously to have Jackson as the university’s sixth president.
He replaced Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed last May as interim president after she announced she was retiring from the school after seven years of service.
“President Jackson has brought the emphasis on academic excellence and our core values that was sorely needed,” Harrington said.
Following his appointment last week, Jackson said, “It is quite an honor to be selected by the Board of Trustees of Bethune-Cookman University and serve as the permanent president ushering in a new era of excellence for this university.”
Jackson’s tenure began immediately and will conclude July 1, 2016. A search committee will be appointed in January 2015.
Since arriving at the university, Jackson has established what he calls Freshman College, which provides new students a comprehensive first-year experience with structured support to ensure a seamless transition from high school to college.
He has established an Honors College to provide the university’s brightest students with a variety of opportunities to develop as scholars and what he calls “servant leaders.”
A date for the formal presidential inauguration will be announced next week.
This will be Jackson’s third presidency, having served as president of Compton Community College in Compton, Calif. and Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York.
Founder’s family responds
Dr. Evelyn Bethune, granddaughter of B-CU’s founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, told the Daytona Times, “Dr. Jackson has shown himself to be more than qualified on paper. He is spiritually gifted and has a true heart to serve. He honors the legacy of my grandmother by putting students first and insisting that those employed by the university do the same.”
Bethune also noted, “He has strengthened relationships with the community and has a strategic plan for engaging the university and the community to become better and improve the quality of life for both. I support this decision 100 percent. It can only bring greater success to the university, the students, and the community at large. Hail Wildcats as the legacy of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune continues in excellence.”
Sara Bethune, another grandchild of Dr. Bethune said, “We shall see if he stays true to my grandmother’s dream. I believe if he does and if Satan stays out the way, he will do just that. Keep my grandmother’s dream. Stay true to her wishes.”
Slater, Wagner responds
Daytona Beach NAACP President Cynthia Slater, a Bethune-Cookman grad, was excited about the decision of the board.
“It is my belief that they (the board) made an excellent choice in selecting Dr. Jackson to serve as president of Bethune-Cookman University. I believe that he is ready to take the university to an even higher level of greatness by increasing ways to generate endowment funds, increased enrollment, recruitment of quality students and professors, and offering quality programs,” Slater said.
“I wish Dr. Jackson well, and want him to know that he has the full support of the NAACP.’’
Volusia County Councilman Joshua Wagner responded, “We are very blessed to have Dr. Jackson in our community. I am very excited for the students as well. He brings a very high level of professionalism and passion to B-CU and our community will benefit in the successes of his hard work.’’
Other Daytonans excited
Many others also were excited about the announcement.
Beauty salon owner Kim Moten, a lifelong resident of the city and a big supporter of the school, said she was happy about the selection.
“He seems to be a man of integrity that wants the best for this great institution. Just in this short time the campus seems to be moving in the right direction, one of pride and growth,” she stated.
Daytona native Leona Jackson stated, “I hope that he has a clear vision as he did with his work at Medgar Evers College that will help B-CU become the best institution possible.”
Local activist Ericka Sipp added, “I am enormously impressed by his successful efforts to the keep B-CU founder Mrs. Bethune’s dream flowing.”