Dr. Ivelaw Griffith the new President of Fort Valley State University
by Tony Best
Not many university presidents, chancellors or their deputies make names for themselves as scholars and administrators.
Most of the outstanding leaders of tertiary educational institutions either brought a long history as administrators to their jobs or through their distinguished scholastic track record took the college or university to a new level.
Not so with Dr. Ivelaw Griffith, the scholar and administrator who was chosen a few days ago by the University System of Georgia to head Fort Valley State University. As Prof. Basil Wilson, Provost Emeritus of John Jay College of the City University of New York but who is now a Professor of criminal justice in the King Graduate School of Monroe College explained after hearing the news of Dr. Griffith’s elevation to the leadership of Fort Valley State, a historically Black university in the South, “a lot of people gravitate to administrative work in higher education and really have an inadequate record as scholars.” That was why Wilson said “I have tremendous confidence in his (Griffith’s) leadership ability to be an outstanding president.”
We share that confidence.
The Board of Regents of the Georgia University system deserves kudos for selecting such and outstanding, albeit mannered but forceful and efficient scholar/administrator for FVSU.
Several factors set apart the son of Caribbean soil, who occupied key positions at college and universities in Florida, Virginia and New York and will soon add Georgia to the list of places where he has functioned with distinction. Whether it was at Florida International University where he was Dean of the school’s Honors College in Miami for several years or at York College of the City University of New York where he served since 2007 as the school’s Provost at senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, the story has been the same: Prof. Griffith helped to usher in an era of innovation in higher education. Just as important, he has used his scholarship to help boost the school’s academic performance.
At York, for instance, he introduced some lecture series that enhanced research and the scholarly climate. Of course, he had the vigorous support of the school’s president, Dr. Marcia Keizs who is adept at making the best use of the administrative and academic talent at her disposal. Griffith also zeroed in on the undergraduate program and established a research initiative for the first time college students. We wouldn’t be surprise if he does a somewhat similar thing at For Valley State, a school with an interesting history.
The university in Georgia traces its origins to the Fort Valley High and Industrial School that received its charter at the tail-end of the 19th century, 1895 to be exact. It has gone through several incarnations, such as the State Teachers and Agricultural College in 1902. The university whose study body of more 4,000 young men and women with an average of 24 years is a vital member of the University System of Georgia, provides an excellent education to Blacks who account for at least 90 per cent of the people on campus. It offers Bachelor’s degrees in more than 50 majors as well as master’s degrees in education and counseling.
Teacher education, veterinary technology, child development, rehabilitation counseling and child development are among its major programs.
As FVSU’s ninth president, Dr. Griffith will add a new dimension to campus and academic life by bringing a blend of intense domestic and international interests to the school’s climate. As perhaps the premiere Caribbean security expert in the Western Hemisphere and the author of seven books and at least 50 scholarly papers published in academic, military and other journals, he is well positioned to broaden the image and the field of study of the university.
But to succeed, he will need all the support he can get from the hierarch of the university system. Already, the Chancellor, Hank Huckaby, and chairman of its Board of Regents, “Dink” NeSmith, have expressed their commitment to supporting him as he seeks to provide FVSU with the leadership it obviously needs and is seeking.
“I and other members of my staff are totally committed to support President Griffith as he leads the students, faculty and the extended Fort Valley Community into the future,” was the way Huckaby put it. “I know all who are committed to assuring a successful future to the University will lend their support to President Griffith’s Administration.”
That’s like music to Dr. Griffith’s ears.
A factor which distinguishes the new President from many others in academia is his ability not simply to diagnose a problem but offer cogent solutions, a point made by Dr. Carlos Russell, a retired political science professor of Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.
These outstanding qualities are going to serve him well in his new position.