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South Carolina State University Board Chairman Milton Irvin has stepped down from his leadership role, although he remains on the board.

Irvin announced he was stepping down as chairman during the board's regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday.

"I will remain an active and devoted member of the S.C. State University board of trustees and will continue to serve for as long as I am personally able to fulfill my promise to this university and its leadership," he said.

Board Vice Chairman Rodney Jenkins will now serve as interim chairman until the board elects a new chairman at its next regular board meeting. A date for that meeting has not been set.

Irvin was appointed in 2015 to serve on a temporary board tasked with restoring the university's fiscal health. He later remained with the newly constituted board that began serving July 1, 2018.

Reading from a statement on Wednesday, Irvin said, "In 2015, South Carolina State University and its leadership experienced some of the most challenging times in the institution's history. During that time, our legislature made a bold decision to invest in this university and made a commitment to return S.C. State to a position of prominence in the higher education community."

Irvin said he was honored to have been appointed to serve on the seven-member board which restored the university's financial health and "elevated its reputation as a leading producer of top graduates who went on to represent the university in various professional fields all over the globe."

Irvin was elected board chairman in 2018. He said he took the position with a hope and vision to move the university forward, a task which he said new board members have shared with him.

"We had to make some tough decisions, some of which were not popular, but we did what we knew was the right thing to do. Today, I'm proud of where we've come from and I'm looking forward to where we are going," Irvin said.

Irvin said he’s confident the university is headed right direction.

There are "other very capable and qualified leaders on this board" who are just as committed to and passionate about the university as he is, Irvin said. He thanked board members for their support over the years, along with S.C. State President James Clark "for carrying out the mission to make S.C. State the best."

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Trustee Rodney Jenkins, a 1973 graduate of the university, thanked Irvin for his service as chairman.

"I look forward to his guidance and continued service on the board. I believe it is important to remain humbled and grounded by God's guidance. In Romans 12:3-8, Paul encourages us to serve diligently and cheerfully. I trust that this is the heart of all of us as we provide service through leadership to this university,” he said.

Jenkins said the board must now focus on stability.

"Currently, it is pleasing to hear that we have submitted our written SACS report and the timeline of SACS has been established. Thanks to everyone for their part in making this happen prior to the due date. Special thanks to Ms. Valerie Goodwin (acting director of institutional effectiveness/quality enhancement plan director) for her leadership on this most critical work," Jenkins said.

Jenkins said it is important that the university continue to expand on its established partnerships with technical colleges, universities, alumni, communities and private businesses.

"It is important that we keep focus on the retreat areas of improvement: increasing enrollment, attractive academic programs and fundraising," he said. "Students can absolutely reach their God-given potential at SCSU."

Trustee John J. Funny, president of the S.C. State National Alumni Association, thanked Irvin for his service to the board.

"You have been a shining light to this board. We are indebted to you," he said.

Trustee Donnie Shell said, "He got us back on the right track."

Following the meeting, Jenkins said the work that Irvin and other board members did back in 2015 was noteworthy.

"The structure that they put together is of real good importance and we can now go forward with that. The other part to that is we (the board) are going to meet a little more often. So that's going to help us be more engaged," Jenkins said.

He added, "I always say we’ve got to dispel this attitude of distrust. We're trying to gain the trust of the community and all the state of South Carolina at-large at the board level and at the university administration level. So we want all of that to take place."

Jenkins said he is ready to help move the university forward.

"I'm the class of '73. I'm passionate and I bring love and passion to this university. I did that. When I applied to run for this board of trustees, that was a big part of my actual campaign. I love this university," he said.

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Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter at @DionneTandD.

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