Julianne Malveaux Explains Why She Left Bennett College

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 When I went to Bennett College for Women in 2007, I declared that I was “on fire” for the institution.  I still am.  And I also yield to the biblical verse that says for everything there is a season, a time for everything unto heaven.  I had a season to build four buildings in four years, to increase enrollment, to influence curriculum shifts, and to assemble an awesome senior team, to engage with most of my students, and to influence young lives.  I also managed the development of a new strategic plan, and I’ve been privileged to be a national Bennett brand advocate.  I’ve maintained a speaking schedule partly because it enhances Bennett’s visibility, and wherever I go, I meet potential students, parents, and others, that want to engage me in Bennett matters.

I most value the ways we have looked at our campus foci – entrepreneurship, leadership, global studies and communications.  If a young sister masters these, she can operate in almost any arena.  The number of students who have traveled internationally has increased exponentially during my leadership.  Personally, I’ve taken students with me to Copenhagen, Haiti, and Nigeria, as well as to many sites in places in the United States.  I am also grateful to have had support for the development of our entrepreneurship program.  Given the job market, there is a point in time when many of us will be entrepreneurs, whether we want to be or not.  I have had a team to develop this concept and to integrate it into Bennett’s curriculum.

So why go?  Things are going well.  We had a bump and were put on SACS probation when a major donor defaulted on a large pledge, and when we had to pay (go figure – and that’s another column) the government more than a million dollars on a prepayment penalty.  We overcame that in just six months and are in the clear with SACS until 2014, when we have a five year review.  We celebrated the removal of SACS probation in January and it was, indeed, an exciting moment.

Why go?  Because it’s time.  Because leading the college is easy and fun, but raising money is hard.  In order to move into the next phase at Bennett, somehow we need to both enhance our endowment and raise enough moment to implement the strategic plan I led.  Do I have the stomach for spending 80 percent of my time raising money?  When asked the question, I had to go into deep prayer and meditation.  The answer?  No.

External forces work against HBCUs. President Obama has been great in managing to keep the Pell grant level, but it needs to be larger.  In North Carolina, the private colleges have been excluded from state lottery funds, reducing the money Bennett students can bring to the college.  Key stakeholders committed for four years and may or may not renew commitment.  The United Negro College fund has slashed its appropriations to private colleges by more than 50 percent.  When I looked at the factors in play, I saw an uphill climb.  And five years of working at full speed, wearing myself down, convinced me that I didn’t have the energy for another uphill climb.

When I first came to Bennett a valued staff member chuckled at my pace.  It’s not a sprint, she said, it’s a marathon.  I replied that it is a sprinting marathon.  Now I yield to her wisdom.  Impossible.  You can’t run at the pace that I tried to run without paying a price.  I did.  I so fully appreciate the difference between being 53 and being 58  I fully understand the toll that stress, sleeplessness, and diabetes can take on one’s life.   I fully understand that while I talked about balance, I never practiced it.  And I fully understand that my need to go is as much a result of my own exhaustion as anything else.

I am not an HBCU graduate, and I had I been, I would likely have been a very different person.  At my undergraduate college, African American students fought to establish their intellectual chops, while at Bennett, the development of intellectual chops is applauded and encouraged.  Without being an HBCU graduate, I am an HBCU fan, and my experience at Bennett convinces me that I will always be.  I love my college so much that I hate to leave it, but it’s time.

When I say that I have never had a job for more than five years, I’m being flip.  I wrote for Black Issues for 15 years, have been affiliated with USA Today since 1986, and have written columns (my first love) since 1984.  But I am a free sprit that rebels against structure, and I accepted the structure of leading a college. I realized that conformity would be a stretch goal.  I stretched for five years.  Now I need to exhale.

There is a Japanese haiku that my sister, Mariette, shared with me.  My barn has burned down, now I can see the moon.  Bennett has been the space that I chose to come to because I am committed to African American people, to our education, to college access.  I thrived at the college, and yet I am mindful of the concept of season.  My barn has burned down, and the moon that I see is spaceless and endless.  Bennett will always have a piece of my heart, and yet, for so many reasons, this is the season for my departure.  I am leaving my college with satisfaction with my accomplishments, and with a sense of poignant reflection on that which has been done, and that which might have been done.  I leave my college enriched, informed, and regarded in the fight for social and economic justice.  I am leaving my college – it will always be my college-because it is time, because God is good, after you’ve done all you can, you just stand.  I’m standing in the power of education.  Standing in the power of access.  Standing in the energy of HBCUs.  Standing grateful and strong.  Standing, ready for the next chapter of my life.


Last Word Productions, Inc. is a multimedia production company that serves as a vehicle for the work and products of Dr. Julianne Malveaux. For the last 15 years the company has centered its efforts on Dr. Malveaux’s public speaking appearances, her work as a broadcast and print journalist, and also as an author. Currently, Julianne Malveaux is President of Bennett College For Women in Greensboro, North Carolina and author of Surviving and Thriving: 365 Facts in Black Economic History.


Barbara Caldwell
Last Word Productions Inc.


15 Comment

  1. Job well done, and the wise know when to leave. Malveaux has left a golden mark. Legacy.

  2. Either in the original letter or in the transfer to the web there are several spelling errors not to be expected by an ex-president of a college. It’s beyond spell check and giving us a pass because “we know what she means”. The devil is in the details…proper spelling, proper words, maybe proofing it before it hits the web. Little things in basic writing and editing, please.

  3. D. Alexander, you are a person after my own heart! Such spelling and syntactical errors occur frequently in articles and comments written by Black people. I have the same problem with Essence Magazine. It’s not about “being white;” it’s about knowing how to spell and write. I know. Many readers will hate me for what I have written. If the shoe fits,….

  4. I agree with D. Alexander, the glaring grammatical errors undermine the effectiveness of the message. However, I appreciate the explanation for her departure and the insight into the president’s role as supreme fundraiser.

  5. Please!!! I bet neither of you have any credentials…Get yours before you past judgement.

    Please at least have a BS or BA degree before you can comment and if you have that tread lightly….lol


    Get Yours….

  6. I was reading for the meaning, not looking for either errors in grammar or syntax. I appreciate Dr. Malveaux’s honest recognition of what she has done for Bennett College for Women. I applaud her for acknowledging her limitations and admitting that she knows when it is time for her to move on. She brought the college to another level and the alumnae are grateful to her for her contribution. A good leader makes one more contribution. That is, she sees the potential in someone else who might follow her and she recommends that person to the Board of Trustees. We hope that Dr. Malveaux will assist the board in finding a successor as competent as she. We wish Dr. Malveaux good health, rest, and continued success in her writing.

  7. I don’t believe a word of it. Many college presidents make seven figure incomes. Imagine her compensation package in terms of Carolina dollars where the cost of living is minimal.

    Plus, her contract allowed her to pursue other income producing activities such as tv news appearances, speaking engagements, conferences, etc.

    Her reason that “there is a season” simply does not add up. Somebody is not telling the whole story.

    As regards her spelling, some of the brightest people can’t spell and have horrible handwritings (smile). And graduating high school in three years, college and a master’s degree in four years, and then MIT economics is certainly proof of brilliance.

  8. James…totally agree. People are so quick to judge someone.

    anonymous…7 figures, really!? There may be a few that make 7 but also consider the number of colleges in the US. Once you calculate that…you’ll see that 1 in 1000 presidents make that much. I think if people knew the truth, they would be surprised by what people REALLY make. Just because you have a Ph.D. doesn’t mean you make 1mil+. Just because you have the title doesn’t mean you make 1mil+.

    Additionally, let’s applaud Dr. Malveaux. It’s a beautiful thing when an African American shows what you can do with education and inspires others. She could’ve spent those 5 years at a “white college” and people would’ve been mad about that too asking “why doesn’t she take her talents to a HBCU?” Get it together people!!

  9. 1. i do not know a great deal about Dr. Malveaux…
    2. …however, whenever I have seen her on television, her sound judgment, measured temperament, and grasp of facts have been apparent…
    3. …i agree with commenters suggesting that Dr. Malveaux’s explanation is probably not the whole story…
    4. …i speculate that Dr. Malveaux’s progressive views on women’s rights, roles, and behavior, including her acceptance of responsible pre-marital sex, were controvertial in the HBCU community, playing some role in the big picture…
    5. …hopefully, Dr. Malveaux will write a book or series of articles about the roles, statuses, and challenges shared by women of color internationally…
    6. …finally, EVERY writer needs a good proof-reader or editor…

  10. anonymous…….you are in the dark…7 figure income & Bennett College are like oil and water..

    You are quite true as I know many Doctors, Engineers and those with PHD’s, Masters and Bachelors that are not “English Majors” and cannot spell…however it is the meaning that matters most.

    On another note I do know some janitors, plumbers, mechanics and the like that can spell rather correctly with the best of them.

    Don’t judge folks based on a shingle hanging on the wall as must as the discipline of the mind…

    Make it a great day folks!!

  11. As a member of Dr. Malveaux’s family, she is the most honest, sincere, educated, hard working, dedicated person I know. It sadden me to know that she left Bennett College, BUT I know after thinking long and hard, deep in her heart it was the best decision for her at this time. Bennett has been blessed with her presence for 5 years, and I know she will always have a soft spot in her heart for that college. I wish her well in all of her endeavors, and I know whatever she embarks on next she will be just as successful…..Best of Luck Dr. Malveaux.

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