WILBERFORCE — Incoming Central State University President Cynthia Jackson Hammond will walk onto a campus next week much different than the one retiring leader John Garland took over 15 years ago.
Before Garland became the seventh president of Ohio’s only public historically black university, Central State’s enrollment had fallen to 950 students, the school was in debt, its residence halls condemned, its population “dispirited” and there were talks in the Statehouse of closing it.
“Things were not going well,” said Garland, a 1971 alumnus. “We were all very, very worried about the future of the university.”
Garland, whose tenure ended Saturday, was able to increase enrollment 160 percent, construct eight new buildings, create new academic programs and see Central State designated a Center for Excellence in Emerging Technologies.
“He’s just worked hard at making sure that we survive,” said William Caldwell, a professor in the Fine and Performing Arts Department. “To prove to the legislature and the people of Ohio that this is a place that needs to be guarded and protected.”
Garland put into motion other plans that will shape the future of the university, which he leaves in the hands of Hammond, Central State’s first female president.
She will lead the institution as it continues constructing a $33 million student center, seeks status and access to millions of federal dollars as a land grant institution and implements a plan from the Ohio Board of Regents to increase enrollment, retention and graduates.
“Her task, she understands, is to take the university to the next level, and I’m excited about that,” Garland said.
“My biggest hope for the university is that every member of the faculty, staff, administration and alumni get behind Dr. Jackson Hammond.
Hammond will be challenged by ongoing issues, including how to improve the university’s graduation rate without straying from its mission to admit students who do not fit the profile of a typical high achieving student, as cited in a study of the university by the Ohio Board of Regents.
The university enrolls more students from poor, urban schools than any other Ohio public university. Its graduation rate, at 19 percent, is mid-range for historically black universities. Its retention rate for students entering their sophomore year is 46 percent for full-time students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Hammond will also be faced with a long-standing “climate of mistrust” between university and state officials, according to the study, as well as a physical environment of the university that is “at best underwhelming and at worst dismal.”
The area Garland cites as his top accomplishment during his time leading his 125-year-old alma mater is “the thousands of young women and men who graduated from the university who would not have otherwise graduated.
“I am lucky enough to have been in the presidency long enough to have actually seen students I’ve given degrees to come back with their own families,” he said.
Garland points to the “values-based learning environment” created for students based on honesty, hard work, caring and excellence.
“I believe that it is not enough to provide an education, to just say, ‘Here are the academic subjects for you to learn and for us to teach you to prepare you for the world and for life,’ ” he said. “Our students also need to have a set of core values that they can refer to throughout their careers and their lives.”
Garland has been a mentor to students, said 2011 alumna Aminta Moses, whose father worked at Central State.
“Every student you ask will tell you that President Garland is very real. He doesn’t sugarcoat things. He was always very encouraging. It wasn’t, ‘You can do it no matter what, regardless.’ He always made sure we knew that our effort was required — which I think made a much bigger impact than somebody just always being a cheerleader. He was a cheerleader, but he also was the coach.”
Garland said during his own time at CSU, he knew his professors cared. He entered Central State in 1968 after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. Garland enlisted at 17 after dropping out of high school and served during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and the 1964 military action in Panama. He was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds he sustained in South Vietnam, according to his biography.
After being honorably discharged in 1967, he earned his high school equivalency diploma, his bachelor of arts in political science from CSU and went onto law school at Ohio State University, graduating and being admitted to the bar in 1974.
During his time in Dayton, the New York City native had an impact off campus, as well. Notably, he successfully mediated a settlement in the decades-old Dayton Public Schools desegregation case.
He served the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher, Dayton Development Coalition, Miami Valley Research Park and Dayton Dialogue on Race.
He’s advocated demonstrating leadership through actions and not just words, said Sean Creighton, executive director of the SOCHE.
“His commitment to Central State has been remarkable,” Creighton said.
“He’s left us in a better place,” said Jennifer Cruz, associate professor of piano and director of the Music Mentors program.
Garland, who is moving to Washington D.C., will stay on as a consultant for a year .
“I think he has left Central State in a good position and if Dr. Hammond lives up to the promise we all have for her, she’ll be able to really accelerate us,” said alumni association president Fred Grigsby Jr., who also led the presidential search committee.
Hammond said she plans to develop robust international experiences with global partners, explore more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiatives, create more service learning with residence of Wilberforce, Xenia and area communities and establish board-based internships for students of all academic majors.
“I extend an invitation to the Dayton community and beyond to visit Central State University. Come to our campus, and feel the energy and ethos of change,” she said.
Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.