Tuskegee Grad Ousted At Grambling

June 25, 2016 2 By Michael
Willie D. Larkin resigned as President of Grambling State University following a Faculty Senate "vote of no confidence," in February 2016. Larkin had never served as a college president prior to the Grambling appointment. Photo from Grambling University website

Dr. Willie D. Larkin resigned as President of Grambling State University effective on June 30, 2016. Larkin had never served as a college president prior to the Grambling appointment.
Photo from Grambling University website

Dr. Willie D. Larkin, a 1973 graduate of Tuskegee University has resigned as President of Grambling State University. Larkin’s resignation will take effect on June 30. His resignation comes less than a year after he was hired to lead Grambling.

The average tenure of a Grambling President over the past 39 years is 2.4 years. Larkin did not serve the university one-full year before resigning after an executive session of the University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors. During this gathering, his brief tenure at the school was evaluated and apparently found lacking. Larkin is the tenth president at Grambling in the past 39 years.

Grambling was founded in 1901 with a Tuskegee connection after a group of Black Louisiana farmers wrote to Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial, now known as Tuskegee University, asking for assistance in starting a school for the Black children of Louisiana. Washington conferred with Lewis Adams, the actual founder of the school at Tuskegee. Adams recommended his son-in-law, Charles P. Adams, a Louisiana native who had come to Tuskegee to attend school. While at Tuskegee he married one of the daughters of Lewis Adams.

Charles P. Adams was president for 35 years. He passed the helm over to Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, who  served as president for the next 41 years. Jones organized the football team and coached it the first year before hiring Eddie Robinson. Jones once said that “Hiring Coach Robinson was the best decision I ever made as president.” Jones founded and coached the baseball team until 1977. In 2013 Emerson was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame.

The other two finalists for the Grambling job at the time Larkin was hired also had Tuskegee University connections. Dr. Gilbert Rochon, a native of New Orleans had served briefly as the sixth President of Tuskegee University. Dr. Thomas J. Calhoun a native of Tuskegee, Alabama was a graduate of Tuskegee University.

Just before Larkin was hired, Grambling had lost its nursing program. Also, Grambling was facing a $3 million deficit, while having eighteen employees making over $100,000. Grambling sought to remedy this deficit by encouraging staff and faculty members to retire. Larkin came aboard amidst this internal discontent.

With less than six months on the job, the full Faculty Senate issued a “vote of no confidence” in Larkin. He was never able to recover and gain the confidence of the alumni and faculty.

Criticism from one alumni members so irked Larkin that he called out the alumnus during his presentation before the Board of Supervisors.

“I would ask that James Bradford leave Grambling State University alone,” Larkin said according to the News Star.

Frank H. Lee, a Tuskegee graduate, says the Grambling situation parallels similar alumni discontent at Tuskegee University.

Tuskegee grad Frank H. Lee believes the Tuskegee University Board of Trustees need to take similar actions as did the Board of Supervisors in replacing Grambling President Willie D. Larkin.

Tuskegee grad Frank H. Lee believes the Tuskegee University Board of Trustees are passively watching the erosion of the Tuskegee brand.

Lee said, ” I think the Board in Louisiana saw there were problems, therefore they did what was in the best interest of both parties to sever all ties and move on. This is the right direction to take. In comparing this situation to Tuskegee, the Trustees have been passive and to save face have ignored their responsibility of making a decision on changing the direction of its leadership.”

After the Board accepted Larkin’s resignation, Larkin said that “Grambling will be just fine,” and that he is “bringing in a large class in the fall.”

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.