Morris Brown College
A Status Report on Recovery
Alumni, AME Church, and Community Support Still Carrying the Load
Atlanta, GA (November 8. 2009). “There has been no silver bullet that has come to the aid of Morris Brown College. But the words of Langston Hughes in his Mother to Son poem are so apropos: ‘I’s been climbing on, and reaching landin’s, and turning corners. . . so don’t you sit down on the steps ‘cause you find it’s kinder hard . . ..” Morris Brown College remains in the struggle for recovery,” said Dr. Stanley Pritchett, acting president of Morris Brown.
It has been almost one year ago since all eyes and ears focused on Morris Brown as it labored to pay the Atlanta Watershed Department a $380,000 water bill. Reverend C. T. Vivian issued the Yes We Care call to action and provided the energy and enthusiasm that stimulated monetary gifts to the college in excess of $500,000. The accreditation woes and constant financial challenges have been open to public scrutiny since 2002 when the college lost its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Through it all, for almost seven years, Morris Brown has not closed its doors. Income streams have come through the leasing of buildings on the campus, and innovative programs such as the Hope Scholarship, Upward Bound, and the Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant have provided additional resources. The AME Church has been more than generous; the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees has given their share. Concerned alumni have been consistent donors, students and faculty have dug deep and made contributions, professors have volunteered, and faculty members have worked without pay.
Today, Morris Brown College is still open and in the business of educating students who want to go to college. There are 104 students currently taking classes at Morris Brown, with 20 students enrolled in the new online Organizational Management and Leadership program that was initiated in the fall of 2009. Recent graduates of Morris Brown are gainfully employed, and several Morris Brown graduates have successfully enrolled in graduate schools and law schools. Dr. Pritchett reports many success stories including that of Class of 2004 graduate Stacy Barrett, who is working on her Ph.D. and also teaching at Morris Brown. “Our graduates are achievers and have not let the fact that their degree comes from a non-accredited school stand in the way of their successes,” said Dr. Pritchett.
While financial stability remains the issue in the turnaround of the college, the good news is that the current operational budget can be realized with a consistent flow of revenue. Projected income includes the necessity for a minimum of $250,000 in monthly contributions, and, therefore, the college’s development team, coupled with an aggressive special committee appointed by the Board of Trustees, is always in a fundraising mode. Morris Brown is also chipping away at the more than thirty million dollars in overall debt. “Even though bankruptcy has been suggested by some, this is not an option because it would set the re-accreditation process back for ten years,” said Dr. Pritchett.
The recent item in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution calling attention to the perilous condition of the historic buildings at Morris Brown College points out the value of the historic structures on the campus. President Mark McDonald of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation is quoted as saying “the civil rights museum, instead of going into a new building, could go there (Morris Brown College).” “We applaud Mr. McDonald’s foresight and encourage him and other preservationists to help provide leadership in our efforts to locate funding for such a cause,” said Dr. Pritchett.
Dr. Sonny Walker, chair of the board’s special committee, meets weekly with the college president and various chairs of board committees in an attempt to carefully examine all of the ideas and proposals that come before the Board of Trustees. “We are grateful for those who bring ideas to Morris Brown, and we are prayerful that we will find that philanthropic soul who will come forward with significant funding capabilities,” says Dr. Walker. “It is painful and disheartening, however, when addressing those who question the validity of the institution and tell us that they don’t want to waste their donations on Morris Brown because they fear the college will soon close. We think we have proven that the leadership of Morris Brown is at work every day to search for funds to satisfy financial emergencies, to alleviate the more formidable long term issues of financial stability and to operate a college that is providing an excellent education for its students,” he added.
Earlier this year, Atlanta City Councilpersons Ivory Lee Young and C.T. Martin participated in a Morris Brown press conference, along with Representative Tryone Brooks and other elected officials. Councilman Young called for Atlantans to “get out of your comfort zone; take the time to learn what is going on at Morris Brown and let’s give Morris Brown a stimulus.”
“It was 128 years ago when African Americans from the AME Church founded Morris Brown,” said Bishop William DeVeaux, Chairman of the Morris Brown College Board of Trustees. “We can assure the public that every dollar received since the sitting Board of Trustees has been responsible for the College can be accounted for and has been put to good use.”
Morris Brown College has an aggressive business plan put together with the assistance of the business department at Howard University. With this plan, the president and faculty of Morris Brown are working on a new direction for the college with a new mission – the online program is just one of the initiatives undertaken to reach a global community. The Board of Trustees is working with a team of lawyers, bankers and financial advisors to find solutions to current financial problems and address long term financial stability. “It is critical that the greater community realize the progress Morris Brown College has made toward recovery,” said Dr. Pritchett.
Bunnie Jackson Ransom
404-226-8000 (cell) 404-505-8188 (office)