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Dawn of a Renaissance

Vickie G. Hampton

Robert M. Franklin ‘75, 10th President of Morehouse College

Officially, President Robert M. Franklin ‘75 has taken 100 days to “look, listen and learn.” He is a little more than two-thirds into those days, but the call of leadership apparently doesn’t adhere to timelines.

With a mind for marketing, during NSO, he sent student ambassadors to the airport to greet arriving freshman so that students, parents and travelers “who passthrough the busiest airport in the world can see Morehouse’s ‘charm offensive’ as we take our story and brand into the public square,” he explained. He also requested that a 15-by-35 foot banner hang from the parking deck to tout three of the College’s most impressive accolades.

He’s also done his fair share of meet-and-greets, including a hugely successful introduction to the black media at a Las Vegas reception during the National Association of Black Journalists Convention and Career Fair.

When the death bell tolled thrice, he celebrated the lives of an administrator, a student and an internationally renowned scholar with the rest of the community.

And Franklin definitely has not put off having his say. The prolific writer and sought after orator has published his first “House Report” —a monthly report that reaches faculty, staff and students, as well as alumni. When he spoke to 700 freshmen during NSO, he didn’t mince words when he put a moratorium on the pervasive dress and etiquette associated with the hip-hop culture.

“Let me be more emphatic,” he told the business-attired students. “We are Morehouse,and we will not tolerate profanity in the public square. We are Morehouse, and we will not tolerate sagging pants that gravitate far below your waistline. No ‘do-rags,’ no baseball caps inside buildings. No pajamas in the classroom.

“You are men of Morehouse. You are better than that. And I will be watching and expecting class from you.” A few weeks later, he delivered the same message to upperclassmen.

That was August.

September finds the new president as busy as ever—even though his 100 days of observation are not officially over until mid-October. He has already given the community a foretaste of his vision for the College: Renaissance has suddenly become a buzzword on campus.

“You gentlemen will have the opportunity to inject new energy and hope into communities and villages that desperately await a Renaissance,” he told students in his NSO opening address.

Walking the Walk
Franklin—a theologian, educator, author, broadcast commentator, student of seven languages and world traveler—is himself the quintessential Renaissance man he is asking the men of Morehouse to become. His latest book, Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities is being cited for going beyond identification of the crisis and seeks to put forth an “actionable plan.”

The former ITC president and Emory University Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics is constantly sought for his advise on topics ranging from funding for religion and public life initiatives for the Ford Foundation to the development of a study guide for the congregational use of the DreamWorks film, The Prince of Egypt.

Franklin graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the College in 1975 with a degree in political science and religion, and also holds a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School and the Ph.D. from University of Chicago. He also studied at the University of Durham, UK, as a 1973 English Speaking Union Scholar.

The Morehouse Renaissance
Franklin’s call for a rebirth of values, commitment and accountability may be a global cry, but he intends for it to start at home—the ‘House. Just as he has asked students to, he has asked faculty and staff in an effort for the people to save the village.

“Where are the challenges, what are the obstacles to really move Morehouse from good to great?” he asked. “What opportunities haven’t we really seized? If you could offer advice on year-one priorities, what would you recommend?”

Integrity on the job; a spirit of service that is conveyed from the “smile in your voice” when you answer the phones to the customer service provided to students and visitors; being good stewards of Morehouse resources; all provide assurance that we are committed to the Morehouse mission,” said Franklin.

“Morehouse exists for the community and, more ambitiously, for the global community,” said Franklin.

“Your ‘House, at your service. I really like that.”

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