Wilberforce names new president

Herman J. Felton Jr. holds a law degree and is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

Herman J. Felton Jr. is Wilberforce University’s 21st president, the chairman of the school’s board of directors announced Wednesday.

“It’s a great day at Wilberforce,” said Mark Wilson, chairman of the Wilberforce University Board of Directors. “It’s an important responsibility that the board has to make sure that the choices made continue down the right path.”

Felton, 44, comes to the university from Livingstone College, in North Carolina, where he served as senior vice president, COO and vice president of institutional advancement. He is credited with increasing Livingstone’s annual alumni contributions from seven percent to 19 percent over three years, according to a press release from Wilberforce. He previously worked as the director of development at Murray State University in Kentucky.

Felton earned a law degree from Levin College of Law at the University of Florida, holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Edward Waters College and served eight years in the United States Marine Corps.

Felton is the third president at Wilberforce in three years. He replaces Algeania Marie Freeman who announced her retirement July 6 after two years as president.

Felton thanked several people, including Freeman, when introduced Wednesday. Freeman had come out of retirement in 2014 to lead the university through financial struggles and to develop a five-year plan that helped the school save its accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission.

“My first goal is to see exactly where we are,” Felton said. He said he would use his experience and and a “boots on the ground” effort to see where Wilberforce stands and where the university wants to go next and to develop a foundation for his goals as president.

Felton described himself as a hard worker. His work ethic is a product of poverty, of watching his mother raise six children and inheriting her “incredible work ethic,” he said.

“I’m simply a fair guy, but I like to work,” said Felton.

The university has steadied itself over the last two years.

Wilberforce University received a “show-cause” order in 2014, marking the beginning of the university’s hustle to update campus facilities, add and improve board membership and raise millions of dollars. Wilberforce has named three presidents since this order was served. Felton is the first to take office in three years with assurance Wilberforce will keep its accreditation.

“I’ll be able to help in that process,” said Wilson, who has been in his position for the last two years. “I will be able to give him insight to help him meet his goals.”

Felton is a Co-founder of the Higher Education Leadership Foundation which develops leaders for the nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), according to the organization website.

Wilberforce University was founded in 1856 to provide African-Americans access to quality higher education. The university expects to enroll 1,000 students this fall.

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