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S.C. State Board ousts Hugine
South Carolina State University President Dr. Andrew Hugine listens to the school’s board pass a motion to not renew his contract during a special called meeting held by teleconference. (CHRISTOPHER HUFF/T&D Files)

Dr. Andrew Hugine Jr. became the ninth president of South Carolina State University and the fifth one to be pulled from the ranks of its loyal sons and daughters.

His experience and association with South Carolina State proved somewhat fitting for this high position of leadership. He seized the chance to display his polished skills and lead South Carolina State University to greater heights.

Hugine was born June 21, 1949, in Green Pond, a rural community in Colleton County. He is the son of the Rev. Andrew and Irene Short Hugine Sr. He was educated in the public school system of Colleton County. Hugine continued his education at South Carolina State, earning a bachelor's degree in mathematics, as well as a master's in education, topping his educational career with a doctorate of philosophy in higher education/institutional research from Michigan State University.

The late President Maceo Nance tucked Hugine under his wings, nurturing his ambitions of becoming a leader. His services to S.C. State included as assistant and director of the University Year for Action Program, director of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Self-Study, institutional research analyst and assistant professor of institutional research.

Since his days as an undergraduate, Andrew has always been involved in working with civic organizations. In religion, he always maintained his membership in Jerusalem A.M.E. Church, his home church, and while in Orangeburg, at Williams Chapel A.M.E. Church.

Hugine was also a diehard "Omega Man," member of Edisto Masonic Lodge (PA) and the Edisto United Way Board of Directors. In addition, he served on the Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five Board of Trustees.

As Dr. Leroy Davis gracefully bowed out of the presidency of South Carolina State, the Board of Trustees ushered in a man of great status, integrity and wisdom, who would keep watch over the day-by-day operations of S.C. State until a new president could be selected. That man was former chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court, Judge Ernest A. Finney Jr. Finney's selection was seen as one of the best decisions the board had ever made. He was to be paid the equivalent of approximately $130,000 a year.

When the job started in July 2002, Finney and his wife Frances landed on the campus to begin their work. A "go-getter," Frances went by the name "Lady Bug." The Finneys started the "Bulldog Roundup," which became a motivation the entire Bulldog family. The Finneys played the role of grandma and grandpa, steering the school on a positive track until a permanent leader could be found.

While the board searched for a successor to Davis, Dr. Hugine was assigned as the "right hand man" to assist Judge Finney with the day-to-day operation of the institution in conjunction with the vice presidents. For the next year, when you saw one, you saw the other.

On June 3, Dr. Davis and the university officials signed a "settlement agreement and general release" that called for SCSU to pay the retirement system $57,157.67 to fully vest Davis in the system. The new wing of the Science Building will be named after Davis and he will receive an honorary doctorate degree at the May 11 commencement exercises.

In September, the Budget and Control Board cut off the search process with 49 applicants who met the minimum requirements. By Sept. 25, the candidate pool had been reduced to 20 and by Oct. 22 to eight.

On Dec. 16, Chairman Maurice Washington announced, "We have narrowed the process to three." Then on Dec. 30, Trustee Dr. William Clinkscales announced, "One candidate has withdrawn, citing family health problems. Two is probably an inadequate number to move forward with."

The trustees decided to put the four semi-finalists back on the short list.

On Jan. 14, 2003, South Carolina State University named six finalists for president: Dr. Livingston Alexander, provost and vice president of academic affairs, Kean University, Union, N.J.; Dr. William H. Greene, a director of development for minority affairs, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio; Dr. Robert R. Jennings, executive vice president and chief operating officer. Babcock School of Management, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.; Dr. George E. Miller III, provost, Bowie State University, Bowie, Md.; Dr. James Emile Sulton Jr., executive director, New Jersey Commission on Higher Education, Trenton, N.J.; and Dr. Earl G. Yarbrough Sr., provost and vice president for academic affairs, Virginia State University, Petersburg, Va.

About a week later, Trustee Arnold Collins Sr. asked if the selection was "closed to the six names that we have now." Washington replied, "Recruitment and solicitation of candidates is an ongoing process throughout the search process until a new president is appointed."

Clinkscales said, "I think it would be a total injustice to the process if you add someone at this point."

In a strange twist of events, the board met on Feb. 7 behind closed doors for a two-hour briefing on the state's open meetings law. At that meeting, the trustees "voted to give Washington wide latitude in planning the rest of the selection process."

On Feb. 18, Washington announced that the additional applications would be accepted for 10 working days to "give us another opportunity to learn whether or not other highly qualified individuals are interested in being considered for the presidency of our historic institution."

Clinkscales said, "The process was not reopened with anyone specific in mind."

One month later on March 18, Washington announced that seven more applications were received during the 10-day window. Sulton announced that he was withdrawing his application. That left 12 candidates.

"This process was not reopened to bring into consideration a particular candidate," Washington said, but "to ensure that the best possible candidates who were interested were given some consideration ... This has been an open and honest process."

On April 11, the trustees had trimmed the candidate list down to five. On April 30, the board released a statement naming the three finalists: Dr. James H. Johnson Jr., dean of the College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences and professor of civil engineering, Howard University; Yarbrough and South Carolina State's own "native son," Dr. Andrew Hugine.

When the glow of the sun made its appearance in Orangeburg on May 16, 2003, the S.C. State Board of Trustees announced Hugine would be the ninth president to lead South Carolina State University.

On May 18, 2003, the Times and Democrat reported: "Mixed reaction to new SCSU president."

"While praising the virtues of Dr. Andrew Hugine Jr., alumni have mixed feelings about his selection as the ninth president of South Carolina State University on Friday afternoon," The T&D reported.

"I'm disappointed, but I was not surprised," Gracia Dawson, widow of Oliver C. Dawson, said. "He and his wife are two very fine people."

"The procedure is what we objected to," Dawson said, referring to the trustee board's decision to invite a second round of applications.

Other reactions:

Priscilla Jarvis worried about the image the trustee board was presenting by replacing one "insider president with another."

Linzie M. Muldrow said he was concerned that Hugine had little experience away from S.C. State. He said Hugine would have a nightmare dealing with S.C. State's problems.

"I felt it was a done deal, even though (board chairman) Mr. Washington assured the alumni that it was not," Audrey Quick said. "I don't believe them. Especially, I don't believe Maurice Washington."

Dr. Walt Tobin said, "South Carolina State is very fortunate to have somebody of his (Hugine's) caliber. It is a very appropriate selection, and I wish him well."

As in any situation, everyone had his or her own opinion. With the university constantly changing presidents, general consensus seemed to be that everyone wanted S.C. State to rise up to the status it was meant to attain. State is not in Orangeburg by mere chance. Since 1872, it has been looked upon as the "poster boy" for black education in the state and, in all likelihood, that status will always prevail.

After he was selected, Hugine said, "Given where we are right now, we do need someone familiar with the particular challenges and issues we are dealing with currently. They must be addressed now. You really don't have the time or opportunity for a learning curve. Based on that, I feel I'm uniquely qualified to address those issues in a timely fashion."

During the process of selecting Hugine, a rift was exposed when three trustees voted against his selection, another abstained and two were absent.

Washington acknowledged there would inevitably be comparisons to the university's eighth and immediate past president, Dr. Leroy Davis Sr.

When Davis was reportedly pressured to step down, critics said his familiarity with the institution, his lack of experiences at other institutions and his personal friendships with colleagues and employees hindered him in fulfilling the duties of the presidency.

The State Budget and Control Board set Hugine's salary and benefit package between at $111,000 and $173,000. Washington said, "We would like to gain approval for about $135,000.

Note: When the presidential selection started, Hugine chose not to throw his hat in the ring. When six candidates were identified and the search process reopened, various sources nudged him to apply.

While the focus was shining on the announcement of Hugine as the new president, other matters surrounding the university were revealed that were just as important. The T&D reported on June 13, 2003: "Fiscal nightmare‑ Auditor tells S.C. State trustees laws, policies being violated."

T&D Staff Writer Lee Hendren quoted CPA Barry S. Laban as saying, "Failure to correct numerous financial deficiencies identified in audits as far back as 1998 has kept South Carolina State University in violation of several state laws."

Trustee Arnold Collins called the situation "disturbing."

Laban said, "A lot of the findings in the 1998 audit report are repeated in the 2002 audit report. I don't see improvement between 1998 and 2002."

Laban went on to say he found many checks were written and issued before the university deposited money in the bank to cover them.

"Rather than bounce the checks, (the bank) has been charging SCSU overdraft service fees. The university incurred $12,500 in overdraft service fees in the single month of December 2002 and has incurred $51,000 in overdraft service fees so far in 2003," he said. "On other occasions, checks were written but then kept in a desk drawer until a deposit could be made."

On July 1, 2003, Hugine pounced on the campus like a cat on a mission. The T&D reported: "New SCSU president announces major restructuring."

The T&D went on to report, "On his first day as president of South Carolina State University, Dr. Andrew Hugine Jr. outlined a sweeping administrative restructuring plan Tuesday that he said would increase efficiency and reduce spending."

Hugine started his day off with a prayer in his office with his wife and the Rev. Roderick Belin of William Chapel A.M.E. Church. He made some phone calls and was off to Columbia to the funeral of our great statesman, Sen. Strom Thurmond.

Hugine's restructuring plans included:

Creation of a fifth vice presidency.

Reduction of the number of departments from 20 to no more than 15.

Giving the Division of Financial Affairs responsibility over Management Information Systems.

Giving the director of health and safety the additional duties of staff development and training officer.

Assigned the athletics compliance office to assist in the quality control area of the Office of Institutional Research.

Hugine said, "The idea of restructuring is nothing new. The goal was to improve efficiency and effectiveness at a time when fewer people have more work to do."

An extraordinarily hard worker, Hugine posted his blueprints for the future of S.C. State and, without hesitation, he began his journey. He knew and understood that some folks did not totally agree with the way he was hoisted into the presidency. With that in mind, he recognized his performance had to be far better than that of his predecessor.

After six months of shaking the inner core of S.C. State, Hugine had his formal inauguration ceremony on Feb. 28, 2004. It was a great accomplishment for a rural boy from the dirt roads of Green Pond to become president of South Carolina State University. On that day, his wife Abigail, children Andrew III and Akilah and all of his beloved family and friends from Colleton County watched the proceedings with pride.

In April 2006, Hugine announced the results of an economic impact study on the Orangeburg area. It concluded that South Carolina State University pumped millions into the local economy.

Hugine said, "When I became president almost three years ago, I stated that my presidency at the institution would be marked by a business approach."

A shining moment in the Hugine era came in April 2007 when it was announced the Democratic presidential debate would take place on the campus of SCSU.

As Orangeburg Mayor Paul Miller would say, "It's a great day in Orangeburg." And rightfully so. Images of Orangeburg and S.C. State were beamed all around the world.

"This is history for the Orangeburg community, and it will be forever transformed," Hugine said.

As the 2007 school year progressed, the "street committee" started circulating rumors and hearsay.

On Nov. 30, 2007, The T&D reported: "Trustee Chair: No vote taken to oust Hugine." Another headline read: "Lawsuit dismissed against SCSU board chairman, president." The lawsuit was brought by Mechelle English, former vice president for Institutional Advancement. She alleged that officials failed to act when she questioned the handling of a $200,000 check, the hiring of a lobbyist and the lease of vehicles for coaches.

When December rolled in, a flurry of rumors and activities picked up speed surrounding Dr. Hugine's future at SCSU. On Dec. 7, 2007, The T&D reported: "Heat over Hugine ‑ Alumni president says chairman approached her about removing president; board to respond later."

"The South Carolina State University Board of Trustees meeting was packed to overflowing Thursday with alumni demanding to know the truth behind rumors that the board is preparing to oust President Dr. Andrew Hugine Jr.," the newspaper reported.

On Tuesday Dec. 11, 2007, the verdict on all of the rumors and hearsay was officially announced when the Board of Trustees voted in executive session 7-3 not to renew the contract of Dr. Hugine, which expired in June 2008. The T&D reported on Dec. 12: "S. C. State Board ousts Hugine ‑ Byrd said Hugine's contract should not be renewed because of his performance evaluation and an academic review of the university conducted by the Education Commission of the States."

The three who voted against the motion were Jonathan Pinson, Charles Williams and Col. John Bowden. Bowden and Williams tendered their resignations. The loss of Williams ushered in the historical milestone of S. C. State having its first all-black board of trustees.

According to dissenting board members, the trustees voting against Hugine reneged on a previous agreement that he would resign on Dec. 15 and stay on until the duration of his contract. Accusations were hurled by Williams that the board was micromanaging and undermining Hugine.

Why would the board would take such a high-stakes chance at dismissing Hugine four days before commencement and risk the public relations backlash, especially from the alumni? One can only ask, "What were they thinking?" On the other side, could it have been that Hugine backed the board into a corner and the board pawed back with a fatal strike, ousting him immediately and taking the chance the public outrage would not sink them nor the university?

On July 31, 2008, the T&D reported: "Former president sues S.C. State, trustees."

"Former South Carolina State University president is suing the university and many of its trustees, claiming there was a conspiracy to oust him and tarnish his name," the paper reported. "In the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Orangeburg, Hugine is seeking actual damages of no more than $1 million from the university for alleged breach of his contract. He's also seeking $2 million in actual and punitive damages from the other defendants."

On June 20, 2009, The T&D reported: "Hugine named new president of Alabama A&M."

"Former South Carolina State University president Dr. Andrew Hugine will become the new president of Alabama A&M University. Hugine will replace Dr. Robert Jennings, who was fired over a year ago by the AAMU board," the newspaper reported.

The curtain was finally closed on the Hugine saga when South Carolina State settled the lawsuit. The T&D reported on April 18, 2010: "Hugine fought for legacy in lawsuit vs. S.C. State."

Hugine received $60,000 from South Carolina State University as a settlement in the lawsuit. In addition to the monetary agreement, the university agreed to "allow Dr. Hugine the appropriate recognition customarily given a former president of the university," to record his ouster as a resignation and to remove the board's final evaluation of Hugine from the personnel file. It also ensured that the name of the Hugine Suites would not be changed.

So ends the chapter on the ninth president of South Carolina State University. Although the board rewrote Hugine's legacy, the true history cannot be doctored to reflect anything but the truth, and that is, he was ousted. Yes, the ouster and the board's final evaluation have been removed from his personnel file, but the community, S.C. State students and alumni have witnessed and recorded a different conclusion.

The final days of Dr. Andrew Hugine at South Carolina State University cannot be erased or rewritten.

Richard Reid is the president of the Orangeburg Historical and Genealogical Society. His mission is researching Orangeburg history, with emphasis on African-Americans.

 

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