Special to South Florida Times
Florida Memorial University’s new president has pledged to make FMU a world class university and to immediately tackle issues that stand in the way of making that happen.
The FMU board of trustees formally introduced the school’s new leader, Dr. Henry Lewis III, as the 12th president in its 132-year history, at a recent “Meet the President” press conference in the lobby of FMU’s Lou Rawls Center for the Performing Arts. “When I saw his credentials, all I could say was, ‘My goodness!’” said Board chairman Charles W. George.
Lewis received a bachelor of science in pharmacy from Florida A&M University and a doctorate in pharmacy from Mercer University in Georgia. He served as dean of the Texas Southern University College of Pharmacy and Health for four years and as dean and professor in FAMU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences for 15 years.
He boosted the endowment of the FAMU College of Pharmacy from $1 million to $22 million.
“This is exactly the kind of person we want but never in my wildest dreams did I think he would come to us,” George said.
Lewis indicated an interest in FMU while serving as interim president of FAMU. After a series of meetings and discussions, he decided to come to the Miami Gardens-based university.
“My job is to make FMU not the best kept secret but the best known entity of higher education in the state of Florida,” Lewis said. “My vision as president is to make FMU a world class university.”
Lewis outlined a plan of action, which he dubbed “Vision 2020,” setting out his goals for the next 10 years for the 48-acre campus. Half of the 40 “actions” are projected to be taken in his first year in office.
Lewis had to confront one of those before his official appointment.
Several students complained that they did not receive refunds from their financial aid – money due to them after tuition costs were paid—in a timely manner.
Lewis quickly dealt with the complaint – and made FMU history in doing so. On Jan. 28, about $12 million was disbursed to 1,200 students. This was the first time students had received their refund checks by the second week of a semester, he said.
He also plans to complete an organizational analysis, saying, “Some jobs could be changed, some jobs could be merged and some jobs could go away. We have to have the right mix of people to move FMU forward.”
He announced plans also for renovating the dormitories and expanding living facilities to meet a demand for additional space.
By the end of next year, Lewis expects student enrollment to increase from the current 2,000 to 3,500. To accommodate the growing student body, he wants to introduce a School of Nursing and develop a feeder program with FAMU’s College of Law.
He also plans to launch a football program at the university.
Describing FMU as a “diamond in the rough,” the new president promised to enhance existing programs, saying the signature Aviation Program demands more recognition than it is receiving.
Barrington Irving Jr., the first and youngest African American pilot to fly solo around the world is a product of the aviation program.
“We have a tower across from Opa-locka airport but I would like us to have a partnership with all local airports and be the leading provider for [Transportation Safety Administration] leadership careers,” Lewis said.
Tranika Fagan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.