Glenda Glover had to keep a secret when she attended Tennessee State University’s centennial homecoming celebration in September. At the time, she had already applied to be the next president of her alma mater. Only a few close friends knew.
“I did have to keep it under my hat,” Glover said.
But the news became public about a month later when Glover was announced as a finalist for the job. Last week, the Tennessee Board of Regents approved Glover as the school’s next president, after she earned the support of the TSU National Alumni Association, Gov. Bill Haslam and ultimately Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan.
And now, Glover is coming home to stay.
“I received my foundation here at Tennessee State, so it inspired me to continue to achieve. ... So what better place to come back home with all your education experiences?” Glover said. “When you develop a level of expertise, you want to come back home and share it with those who gave you the most.”
Glover graduated from TSU in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. (She also has a doctorate in economics and business from George Washington University, a law degree from Georgetown and an MBA from Clark Atlanta University.)
Turns out she’s taking the concept of coming “home” to TSU literally. Last week she told The City Paper that she and husband Charles Glover, who also graduated from TSU, plan to move into the president’s residence on campus.
The residence has been used as office space since the interim president, Portia Shields, opted not to live there.
“My philosophy is that a president should live on campus with the very students that she represents,” Glover said. “Part of being a college president is living on campus, and I look forward to that.”
The City Paper sat down with Glover to discuss her impending presidency.
You have a resume that includes doctorate and law degrees, as well as being a certified public accountant. Can you talk about your educational path?
I’ve always chosen a path that was not always the easy path. I wanted to take on challenges. I would determine, “What’s the hardest major on campus?” Somebody said math, so I said, “I’m going to major in math.” What’s the hardest exam? Is it the bar exam? The CPA exam, the medical exam? Somebody said the CPA exam, so I said, “I think I want to get a CPA.”
I wanted to take on these challenges to show it can be done. I just had a thirst for learning and knowledge. I wanted to learn everything about everything. When my friends were playing softball and having a good time, I was in the library learning new words, reading the dictionary. ... I wanted to learn as much as there was to learn.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing TSU?
All universities have challenges. The greatest ones at Tennessee State are not unlike any other HBCU [historically black college or university]. We’re competing with the for-profit institutions for our students. Last year, the University of Phoenix graduated more students than Howard or Florida A&M, which traditionally were the ones who graduated more African-American students. So that’s the one challenge.
The second challenge is the struggle for the identity of the HBCUs.
Speaking of identity, what is your vision for TSU’s identity in Middle Tennessee?
We’re going to recruit students in the Tennessee area. We’re going to do out-of-state also, but we’re really going to recruit students in the Nashville area. We’re going to make recruiting our students a target.
And along with that, we’re going to tell our story — tell the Tennessee State story. Many times our story is kept to ourselves. We know we have good things happening, but it’s not always told. There’s no honor in being the best-kept secret.
Tennessee State is finishing up its first 100 years of existence. I think this is an opportunity now to develop the foundation for the next 100 years: training world-class students to compete in a global marketplace. I think that’s the overriding opportunity for us.
If we’re going to have students as the main focus ... I want to make sure we have a spirit of unity on campus. And we want to raise money so that we can continue at our same level.
Interim President Portia Shields was brought in as an agent of change and even called herself “impetuous” when it came to making decisions. What do you think your pace for change will be?
I’m going to do a systemic review on campus of all systems: communication systems, the facilities management system, the financial system, the athletics system. We’ll look at every system on campus and see what needs to be fixed. If it’s not broken, we won’t try to fix it. But if there’s a broken component, we’ll jump right on that and start fixing it immediately. That’s the way we’ll attack all of the issues. We’ll review what’s in front of us and make data-driven decisions.
You established the first endowed chair at Jackson State. Is that something you’re interested in carrying over to TSU — and what else will be the strategy for fundraising?
Yes, absolutely. I plan to partner with the business community and partner with government agencies. We have to excite the alumni and let the alumni know we need you for our survival. Once we demonstrate to the business community that we are a good corporate partner and a good corporate citizen, then we’ll expand on that base and use that to help us secure much-needed funding.
There is a vocal group of faculty members who have been displeased at some of the changes made by Dr. Shields and the Board of Regents. How will you address faculty concerns?
I think one of the things a new president should do is spend time with faculty. ... I think the faculty should know that my policy is shared governance, and I’ve always practiced shared governance. Decisions are made based on faculty input, staff input and student input. I plan to continue that, and I believe many issues and problems can be solved when there is proper communication and timely communication.
We’re obligated to ask because you attended school around the same time: Did you know Oprah?
[Laughs] We were in school at the same time. We knew each other, but we never really associated because she was working on her career and I was not; I was a student.
There are certainly a lot of people who would like to see her get involved more with TSU.
Yes, and I would too. [Laughs]