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19 August 2008

Guest Blogger: Dr. Stanley Pritchett, Acting President - Morris Brown College

City of Atlanta Must Rally to Protect Morris Brown College from Closing

By Stanley J. Pritchett, Ed.D

As a native of Atlanta, I am always amazed by the spirit of purpose which compels fellow Atlantans into action. During times of adversity or potential loss, leaders rise up to find a way towards redemption when none previously existed. Within the last five years, the people of our beloved city have rallied to prevent the tearing down of the original Paschal's restaurant, the closing of Southwest and Grady Hospitals and supported purchasing the papers of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to be housed in the future Center for Civil and Human Rights, just to name a few.

This commitment to our history and institutions is a powerful force that can move mountains and sway the attitudes of millions. As Acting President of Morris Brown College, the only Historically Black College and University founded by African Americans (in the basement of Big Bethel AME Church), who for 127 years has transformed "diamonds in the rough" into productive citizens, I ask that my city fight to keep this school open. If Morris Brown permanently closes its doors, it will surely be a solemn day for Atlanta and all who believe in education as the gateway to success.

Many are fully aware of the financial difficulties we currently face. Losing our accreditation and access to federal funding has limited traditional revenue streams to support operational costs and pay existing debt. We are working tirelessly to prepare for our Southern Association of Colleges and Schools review next year, identifying academic programs to support workforce development in a global economy, and rebuilding our relationship with the United States Department of Education to provide students grants and loans. As well, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation and signed by the Governor last year which allows Morris Brown to receive Hope Scholarship and Tuition Equalization Grant funding. Internally, faculty and staff have learned to provide excellent service with limited resources, the Board of Trustees continues to offer dynamic leadership and the Alumni have been tremendous in raising money. Still, more needs to be done.

Morris Brown College is located in a city with numerous Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies, internationally recognized philanthropists, mega churches with thousands of congregants and African American elected officials at every level of government. If monies can be found to purchase the King Papers or sustain Grady Hospital, surely there is a contingent of Atlantans who recognize the utility of assisting Morris Brown during these urgent times. We are not asking for a hand out, but a partnership with public and private sectors to meet our educational responsibilities and place the institution on more solid financial footing. With our young people, now more than ever, in need of guidance and opportunity, an institution like Morris Brown should be the highest priority for continuing to prosper.

Atlanta, I ask that you take the time to visit our school and speak with our students. Listen to their stories of how Morris Brown has become a second home. These young men and women, usually the first in their families to attend college, aspire to make a difference in this world. We want them to succeed and will use every resource available to do so. I hope you will join us in this effort.

Dr. Stanley J. Pritchett is Acting President of Morris Brown College.