"An important desire I have is to build and maintain an environment of learning ... and the spiritual development of students … I certainly envision Claflin College moving to levels of excellence and becoming a premier liberal arts institution in the Southeast.” -- Dr. Henry N. Tisdale, February 1994, when Claflin named him as president
On Tuesday, President Henry N. Tisdale made the announcement that nearly everyone knew was coming one day: He will retire in 2019 after 25 years at the helm of Claflin University.
Over Tisdale’s 2-1/2 decades, Claflin has reached milestone after milestone -- from fundraising and facilities to academic achievement, national recognition and community development. It was as if his leadership at Claflin should go on forever.
But as the president and 1965 Claflin honor graduate said Tuesday, “We believe the time is now.” And he and first lady Alice Carson Tisdale can be proud of the legacy they will leave at Claflin.
"A strong foundation has been laid to ensure the future,” Tisdale said.
Senior history major Dominique Riggins agreed, saying Tisdale’s biggest accomplishment is bringing Claflin into the 21st century and inspiring others.
“Tisdale has above all inspired a generation,” Riggins said. “I’ll say that again, Tisdale has inspired a generation of visionary leaders.”
Students from years past, today and tomorrow will be able to say Tisdale and his partner the first lady, the founder/director of the honors college, achieved their goal of having Claflin become and be recognized as a top liberal arts institution in the Southeast and the nation.
“When I accepted the position in 1994 ... I stated that my vision for Claflin College is that of a premier liberal arts institution in the Southeastern region,” Tisdale said. “An institution of the highest quality that demonstrates its commitment to excellence.
“For the past two decades, I am pleased to be able to state that the university has experienced phenomenal transformation,” Tisdale said.
Now comes the challenge for the university governing body: finding a successor to legendary leadership.
Claflin Trustee Board Chairman James Bennett said the process of looking for a new president will involve a national search.
"I am convinced that both were called. ... Under President Tisdale's dynamic and exceptional leadership, Claflin is richer in resources, higher in national prominence and stronger in academic achievement. ... His tenure as Claflin's eighth president is a masterpiece in administration and leadership. We understood fully his decision to pursue another phase in life's journey. At the same time, he leaves this board of trustees a challenge and a legacy that must be confronted in the immediate future.”
The stature of Claflin in 2018-19 will make the presidency a job sought by highly skilled and capable people, with the successor being a person to whom many will look for continuing success and progress at a university accustomed to such under the Tisdales’ leadership.