Wilberforce University President Patricia Hardaway has announced she will retire from the nation’s oldest historically black college effective Dec. 31.
Hardaway, who became Wilberforce’s 19th president in 2009, made the announcement in an email to the campus community on Monday. She joined the university as provost in 2007 and as president followed the Rev. Floyd Flake, a former congressman and leader of one of country’s largest churches in Queens, N.Y.
Hardaway leaves months after about 100 students, staff and faculty held a protest calling for her resignation and dissolution of the school’s board of trustees over what they called the “continued negligence, incompetence and mismanagement of university assets.”
Still, she was credited for leading Wilberforce during “some of its most challenging years” and through the accreditation process in 2010 by University Chancellor Bishop McKinley Young in the emailed announcement. Board of Trustees Chairman William Lee called her “an innovator and dedicated.”
“We are grateful for her service and dedication to our students and to Wilberforce University,” Lee said in the email.
Hardaway told the community it has been her “privilege to collaborate, partner and join with you in fulfilling this great mission to educate men and women at my alma mater.”
Faculty union president Richard Deering said he believes her retirement announcement is an outgrowth of problems at the 157-year-old university in recent years. Students began protests in October over dwindling enrollment, living conditions on campus, declining students services and pay of faculty, and threatened to withdraw in fall 2013 if changes were not made.
A complaint to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office led to a yearlong investigation but found no evidence to support claims that university leadership were violating their fiduciary duties.
“The situations of low enrollment and poor fund-raising and all those things are just continuing problems for the institution,” Deering said. “Even under the best circumstances under improve and strong leadership, I think it’s going to be very difficult for the institution.”
The university said it is in the process of appointing a presidential search committee.
Top administrators have long been criticized by alumni, faculty and staff. Flake received a “no-confidence vote” from faculty shortly before he left the school in 2008.
A university spokesman declined to provide information about Hardaway’s status on Wednesday and said a statement would be released today.