MIAMI GARDENS — Selby Artis has worn many hats over the years: student, athlete, soldier, entrepreneur, soccer coach, and federal employee.
This week, he steps into his most unusual and perhaps most challenging role to date — that of First Gentleman at South Florida’s sole historically black college and university.
Artis assumes his new title Friday morning, when his wife, Roslyn Clark Artis, formally steps into her role as 13th president of Florida Memorial University.
It’s somewhat of an adjustment for Artis. This week, supporters hosted a private “gentleman’s tea” to welcome him. He’s still adjusting to the attention.
“For me to have a first gentleman’s reception, I’m not used to it,” he said.
Don’t expect Artis to come on campus with measuring tape, cloth or interior design ideas as the first gentleman. “I’m not putting up drapes, and not decorating,” he said, with a slight chuckle. “I am cooking just a bit more, though.”
Artis anticipates gradually easing into campus life. Already he has been a facilitator for a Guy Talk session with the Black Male College Explorers, an on-campus mentoring group for middle and high school black males. He wants to be more involved, and set an example, especially for black male students.
“When (the students) see me, they see my son,” he said.
Kareem Coney, special assistant to the FMU president, said that exposure is important for students.
“It gives our young college males and young black males in middle and high school an opportunity to see another African American male go to higher heights, Coney said.
He said Artis’ on-campus outreach is a bonus. “He’s humble. His wife is the president. He’s strong as well because he’s so supportive. That her husband is engaged at the university means a whole lot, especially with the Black Male College Explorers Program.”
A native of Wilson, NC, Selby Artis attended Fayetteville State University, and Mountain State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership and a Master of Science in Strategic Leadership. In 1990, following his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army, Mr. Artis founded Artis Moving Delivery Company in Charlotte, NC. The successful enterprise coordinated fleets in multiple service lines including local and interstate residential moving, commercial delivery and bulk mail delivery for the U.S. Postal Service.
Mr. Artis has worked for the VA Medical Center in the areas of logistics and supply chain management in both West Virginia and Palm Beach Florida. Most recently, he joined the United States Department of Agriculture as a Contractor/Purchasing Agent.
Outside of his professional work, he enjoys coaching youth league soccer and basketball. The couple has two children, Jayden, 9, and Jocelyn, 6. They split duties with picking the kids up from school and shepherding them to afterschool activities. It’s not a misnomer to call him Mr. Mom, at least some days.
“Some of it falls on me. My job is 9 to 5, and is more flexible,” he said. “This is a new era. Everyone has to pitch in and help.”