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Focus on a Bright Future, President Franklin Says in His Farewell Address


President Robert M. Franklin Jr. ’75 delivered a farewell address that thanked family, friends and the Morehouse community for supporting him the past five years. But the future is where he wants everyone to focus.

“Transitions are bittersweet, often because they involve separation,” Franklin said during the Renaissance Worship Service in the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel on Sunday, Nov. 11.

“But the child must walk away if he is to travel far,” he said. “And it can be very refreshing to have new vision and new energies come to an institution. So we will rally around my successor and around our new first family… We will carry the Morehouse tradition forward. We will stand together and welcome him and urge all of us to celebrate new possibilities to come to Morehouse, this college that I love.”

Franklin is entering the final days of his tenure. He leaves office at the end of December. John Silvanus Wilson Jr. ’79, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, becomes the College’s 11th president at the end of January. Interim provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs Willis Sheftall ‘64 will serve as interim president until Wilson’s arrival.

The worship service served as Franklin’s uplifting sendoff for Franklin and First Lady Dr. Cheryl G. Franklin.

An oil portrait of the First Lady was unveiled, while President Franklin was presented with a photo collage of him at work and a bound collection of his speeches.

It was also a time of kind words from a number of speakers such as the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, Ambassador Andrew Young and Morehouse board chair Robert C. Davidson ’67.

“We are deeply indebted to Robert for his commitment and leadership these past five years, both of which have attracted positive attention to what the College is doing academically and in preparing the next generation of leaders for a social renaissance,” Davidson said. “Robert has done a brilliant job of being an effective administrator, fundraiser, student advocate and public relations specialist du jour. We thank him for wearing so many hats effectively. His presence has been a gift to Morehouse and her students.”

Summoning the Baptist preacher within him, Franklin had the audience on its feet, shouting and smiling, as he told them that the past is forgettable, the present is forgivable and the future is livable.

Franklin also left the students, who he appreciated for embracing his Five Wells (well-read, well-spoken, well-traveled, well-dressed and well-balanced), with a bit of advice.

“Reflect on your time and purpose,” he said. “Redeem the moments. Make the decisions in the now. Decide what you hold onto, let go of the past and lean forward into the future.”

Go to to see the Renaissance Worship Service.

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