New B-CU president is positive but frank during speech to alumni.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The first thing Dr. E. LaBrent Chrite plans to tackle as president of Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) is accreditation.
He plans to fix this by turning around the school’s financial picture, a tall task.
In his first message to alumni, Chrite delivered an address on June 21 during the 51st convention of B-CU’s National Alumni Association.
“There is no place I’d rather be. I’ve been asked: ‘Why go there with all the challenges? I am here not despite our challenges but because of them,” he said during the speech, which was streamed live online on B-CU’s website.
July 1 start date
Chrite becomes B-CU’s seventh president on July 1, taking over from Interim President Hubert Grimes. Grimes did not attend the speech but left a video message calling for support of Chrite and the university.
Grimes stepped in after former president, Dr. Edison O. Jackson, retired in June 2016.
B-CU is on probation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). A loss of accreditation can result in loss of financial aid and scholarships, which a large number of students at the school receive.
In recent weeks, the school’s probation was extended for another year.
“I am so grateful for the additional year. We have a lot of work to do,” stated Chrite.
A ‘vigorous’ approach
Chrite said he will address accreditation and finances issues simultaneously.
“Our first priority is to preserve our cash flow and protect our balance sheet. We do need to be much more vigorous about our expenditures. Without vigorous, sustained, visible, enduring fiscal stewardship and discipline, we will not be accredited,” he stressed.
‘No magic bullets’
To be successful, B-CU is going to have to stay focused.
“We are in a problem that we cannot cut ourselves out of. We’ll be stewards of these resources. We will do this so the accrediting agency can be confident in us and we can go back to the business of investing and elevating this institution to great standing. There are no magic bullets. There are no easy answers,” Christe emphasized.
On church ties
After his June 21 speech, Chrite took questions from the audience, which mostly welcomed him and wished him well.
Mending B-CU’s relationship with the United Methodist Church is another aim of the new president. The school is also affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
“We know our relationship with the church is strained, but I’m excited to get to know about the Methodist Church and all the schools affiliated with the church. “There is a rich history which is good for us to a part of. They are key stakeholders. My intent is for us to have a good relationship,” Chrite told alumni.
Turning Bethune-Cookman into a top institution of higher learning on a global stage for the 21st Century was also mentioned.
Chrite expressed, “I’ve been able to work all over the world addressing poverty and other issues. I am fiercely committed to exposing our students and our community to the world.
“Part of the core academic experience should be giving our students a chance to experience an environment to communicate and create value in markets across the world. Our students must be able to compete in a global society.”
Denver to Daytona
Chrite comes to B-CU from the University of Denver where he served as dean of the Daniels College of Business. He is also an independent director of Gordon Food Services.
A native of Detroit, Chrite and his wife Phyllis have three children and one grandchild.
He completed his undergrad work at Michigan State University, earned an M.S. from the University of Missouri-Columbia and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.
Chrite also has served as dean at Montclair State University in New Jersey and has held leadership positions at the University of Arizona-Tucson and the University of MichiganAnn Arbor.