Wilberforce University held its 158th Founder’s Day Observance celebration Tuesday morning. The keynote speaker was Democrat Tracy Maxwell Heard, Minority Leader of the Ohio House of Representatives. Heard's speech delivered an announcement regarding the university's immediate future.
As the crowd of over 200 people listened to the minority leader speak, they were surprised to hear that trustee Dr. Wilma Mishoe has been named interim president of Wilberforce. The announcement was supposed to be made at a later date.
Mishoe, whose father was the president of an historical black college, says she wasn't fazed by the premature announcement and looks forward to guiding Wilberforce into a new chapter and tackling the hurdles that lie ahead, which include an enrollment that has declined below 500 students and a massive debt of over $20 million.
"Today I wear my father's presidential robe. It is truly an honor and that's a part of my numbness," Mishoe said. "I cannot believe that it has evolved the way it has. But I have no aspirations beyond being interim and [I am] just smoothing the way for the next permanent president of Wilberforce."
House Minority Leader Heard's speech centered around resurrection, something that she believes Wilberforce University will do.
"I'm committed to making sure that Wilberforce remains here because this is a jewel that belongs not only to the graduates of Wilberforce but to the entire African-American community," Heard said.
Former Wilberforce president Patricia Hardaway resigned in December. Trustees say a search for a permanent replacement will continue with no immediate timetable in place to reach a decision.