(FRANKFORT, KY) – Kentucky State University’s fourteenth and first female president, Dr. Mary L. Smith, 84, passed away on November 28, surrounded by her loved ones at home.

A trailblazer and a longtime advocate for access to education, Dr. Smith was not only Kentucky State’s first female president but also the first African-American female college president in Kentucky. Dr. Smith served as president from 1991 to 1998. Before becoming president, she was special assistant to the president and professor at Kentucky State.

Smith also previously served as interim president and vice president for academic affairs. Dr. Smith became an assistant professor of education at Kentucky in 1974, then associate professor of education and acting chairperson of the Division of Education, Human Resources and Technology in 1981. In 1883, Dr. Smith became dean of the College of Applied Sciences and professor of education.

Dr. Smith graduated from Jackson State University in 1957 and earned her master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Smith will lie in state at Kentucky State University on Thursday, December 4, 2020, in the Carl H. Smith Auditorium in David H. Bradford Hall from noon until 5 p.m.

Attendees will have the opportunity to pay their respects and sign the University’s guest book. Security will be present and COVID-19 regulations will be highly enforced with only 25 guest permitted in Carl H. Smith Auditorium at a time.

A private service will be held Friday in the David H. Bradford Hall Little Theater. The service will be broadcast via Zoom:

Time: Dec 4, 2020 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting: https://kysu.zoom.us/j/96422591180

Meeting ID: 964 2259 1180

Tributes may be made to the Dr. Mary Levi Smith Endowed Scholarship at www.kysu.edu/give.

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Picture of Grambling State University campus entrance. Located in Grambling, Lousisana. Photo credits: blackenterprise.com.

Grambling State University, a Historically Black College and University located in Grambling, Louisiana, is under search of new leadership after the 10th head resigned less than a year of holding the helm.

According to recent reports, four more applicants have submitted their application for the job with two of the previous five applicants dropping out. The University of Louisiana System Board hopes to name a new president at its July 26 meeting in Baton Rouge.

Dr. Willie Larkin, who was selected as the 10th President of Grambling back in June 2015, resignation came after growing disconnection between some faculty members and the administration months into his presidency. In February, Grambling’s Faculty Senate vote “no confidence” in Larkin, citing “a vague administrative response to pressing issues such as falling enrollment, fundraising and the loss of the school’s nursing program.”

There was also strain between Larkin and some GSU supporters. One supporter felt that Larkin was doing nothing to build up the university and would not listen to those with experience to help guide the university.

Before the UL System Board chose Dr. Larkin, it was known on his resume that he was Executive Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Morgan State University’s President Dr. David Wilson, who the Board of Regents was underway of almost sitting him out of office after a few university mismanagement issues drew controversy.

In the view of Larkin, according to HBCU Digest, he took a trip to Cuba which were confirmed by staff members to be a vacation and not an academic outreach trip as he initially promoted to the campus and local media outlets. A picture of Larkin with the Morgan State University Gospel choir in Cuba at the same time of trip was posted and went vital which also drew controversy.

Like any other HBCU, Grambling State deserves leadership who can move the university forward with the new millennium that will also protect the institution to surviving with time. As prestigious Grambling is, the future of it’s existance does not need to be included in the list of other HBCU’s that has been endangered.

The question is why such little time in search such as a month for a president just to fill the position so that more controversy can display within Grambling and HBCU media compared to up to five or six months interviewing the best candidates that fit and can comply to taken on the aspect needs of the institution?

This is not what is needed in the eyes of HBCU’s and what people already have determined which distress their contributing to supporting these institutions that is much need for the Black communities in America of today.

It’s up to the UL system board to play fairly and believe in change when choosing the next chief. With four applicants that have relations in HBCU’s and three who does not occupation-wise, it’s best if the chosen one is carefully critiqued on their strategic plans for the upcoming future of Grambling.

The applicants are:

  • Carlos Clark, special assistant to the president for accreditation at Arkansas Baptist College and previously executive vice president at Wilberforce University in Ohio.
  • Audrey Freeman, principal and executive director at Bluford Drew Jamison STEM Academy, Middle School, Baltimore.
  • Angelia Young Jones, adjunct professor of political science at Prairie View A&M University.
  • Dessie Mae Sanders, faculty, English and Literature Uplift Education, Summit International Preparatory High School, Arlington, Texas.
  • Paul Bryant, associate provost, enrollment management, Albany State University (nominated by GSU President Frank Pogue).
  • Rick Gallot of Grambling, attorney, member of the Cleco Corp. board of directors and former state lawmaker.
  • Donnovon Outten, associate vice president for academic affairs, Webster University.

Ivory A. Nelson, president emeritus of Lincoln University, and Jerald Woolfolk, vice president for student affairs at State University of New York at Oswegohad, have withdrawn their application from consideration.

During the search, the applicant should be placed in an interactive assignment other than a question and answer session, which will allow them to collaborate with faculty, staff, students, alumni as well as the community. One thing that comes first for all HBCU’s is the way leadership responds to their faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community. It’s very vital in gaining the trust of the surrounding community of the institution.

In result of the interactive assisgnement, this will distinguish if the faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community are comfortable with the applicant and if he or she is an excellent fit for the university. As bad as “HBCU’s” need the African-American community support, there is NO way it should be denied during this current time and day.

So with only nine days until the UL system board chooses and announces Grambling State’s next president what is the procedures that are being exercised in making sure the accurate leader take the helm? Will they take the helm just because it’s an paid title duty and the UL System “urgently needs” it filled? Or will they take the helm to join the fight with and for Grambling State University and the betterment of its reality as an HBCU?