President Robert M. Franklin Reflects On His 100 Days in Office
Q Your first 100 days were devoted to listening, looking and learning. What has been the most important thing you have learned and why?
A My most important and empowering discovery has been that there is already significant alignment between the students, faculty, staff, trustees and my vision and plans for Morehouse. Poised near the beginning of a new century,we are all calling for the ‘Renaissance of Morehouse,’ the rebirth of personal and collective academic excellence, dignity, values and service to others. We all want Morehouse to continue to be the college of choice for African American men. But, I want to emphasize another dimension of the Morehouse legacy that may be less evident to some people. Namely, Morehouse has been and will be a global leader in producing leaders with intelligence and integrity. In short, that is what alumnus Dr.King illustrated and what many of our alumni and faculty have demonstrated.
Q Your vision for Morehouse calls for a Renaissance—a rebirth of attitudes, focus and commitment—for members of the College, which speaks of a cultural shift. What concrete changes do you need to see in our community before you are satisfied that the Renaissance is indeed realized?
A The Renaissance will be known by these signs: faculty will invest more time in mentoring students. Most men of Morehouse will be engaged in community service of some kind. Most will travel overseas as ambassadors of the global Morehouse. Staff will be known for their exceptional track record of serving our publics with professionalism and Southern hospitality. Alumni will be celebrated for their record-high giving rates. More Rhodes scholars, more winning teams, more international students and faculty, higher graduation rates and a billion-dollar endowment. The campus will be efficient, beautiful, safe and properly equipped with an infrastructure and amenities that compare favorably with the finest liberal arts colleges in the nation.
Q How do you integrate all of your different personas—author, preacher, theologian, broadcast commentator, alumnus, husband and father—into your role as president? Do the different roles ever conflict with what you are trying to accomplish as president of the College?
A Integrating my diverse identities is part of the fun and dynamism of this life. At any given moment, I am challenged to discern which voice, which persona fits into the unique moment I face—which, I think, is a rough definition of ‘existentialism.’ I often ask myself, ‘Does this moment call for a professor, a pastor, a storyteller, an analyst or a father?’ Then, I figure that out and act accordingly. For every season there is an appropriate mode of being, a time to speak, a time to listen, a time to act, a time to reflect. On occasion, my natural tendency to be generous to others conflicts with my role as chief steward of the institution of Morehouse. Finally, I have to say ‘no’ when I would love to have said ‘yes.’
Q Based on what you’ve learned so far, which of your personal attributes do you think will serve you best in your presidency?
A I hope that people perceive that I am a hopeful person who sees possibilities lurking everywhere and in everyone. Deep inside, I draw from a well of faith, hope and love. Although I am as human and flawed as the next person, I strain forward to grasp unmet goals and unrealized dreams. I think that these are necessary qualities of the modern college president.
Q History has a way of neatly encapsulating a leader’s impact with a phrase or sentence, e.g., Dr. Benjamin E. Mays is known as the College’s intellectual architect. Take a moment and look well into the future. In just a few words, how do you want College historians to describe your legacy as the 10th president of Morehouse College?
A I’d like to be known as the ‘students’ president,’ that is, a president who sought to prioritize the holistic development of his students— mind, body and soul—and who succeeded in building a first-class student center, the symbol of our 21st Century Renaissance.
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