[Anglican Communion News Service] Calling on his students and colleagues to “think differently,” W. Franklin Evans was inaugurated on April 7 as the ninth president of Voorhees College, exactly 120 years to the day when educator Elizabeth Evelyn Wright opened the school for children of former slaves that grew into the College.
“I will uphold the mission established by the founder,” Evans said at his inauguration, “as I work to make Voorhees a premier institution of excellence.” He has called Voorhees “the hidden jewel of South Carolina.”
Evans faces a number of challenges: Voorhees is a small college of 600 students in a small town. Of Denmark, South Carolina’s 3,300 residents, 86 percent are African-American and 35 percent live below the poverty line. Voorhees cannot pay faculty and staff salaries to match those of larger institutions. Enrollment has been declining. The last decade has seen shrinkage in federal scholarship funds for low-income students.
On the other hand, Voorhees may be able to benefit from the surge of interest in the country’s 107 historically black colleges and universities – those institutions of higher education established before 1964 to serve the African-American community. This primary focus is being broadened today to include other marginalized groups, including Hispanics.
Evans is well prepared for the challenge: His previous job was as interim president of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, S.C., where he also had been provost and chief academic officer, responsible for faculty recruitment, strategic planning, and re-accreditation. He has declared boosting the enrollment and encouraging greater alumni support his two top priorities.
His inauguration took place before an audience of 500. Bishop Gladstone (Skip) Adams of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina preached, and Bishop Andrew Waldo of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina celebrated the Eucharist.