After working for Grambling State University for five years, Frank G. Pogue announced his retirement, giving many seasoned students the opportunity to reflect on his contributions to the university.
“It was a breath of fresh air for the university,” said Kindrell Plains, 27, the Graduate Student Government Association president. “Students could see the vision Dr. Pogue was trying to establish.”
Pogue explained from his first day on the job that his main goal was to rebuild relationships with the students, alumni, supporters and the GSU community. “I wanted to create a community that was trusting, because I didn’t find much,” said Pogue. “Our students, particularly African American students, need to study and work in a nurturing environment.” The previous GSU president, Horace Judson, resigned because of several disagreements with students, faculty and supporters, leading to rallies, petitions and strikes.
Family is an important tradition at Grambling and to the president. “The decision to leave… grew out of the urgency … to be at home,” said Pogue, 75, who was named interim president in November 2009. He will return to New Castle, Del., to be with his only child, Constance Pogue, two grandchildren and his mother, who is 101 years old. He said his mother is ill, and he hasn’t been able to take care of her or visit regularly. Although he supports financially, the president wants to be there physically to help his other siblings with the care of his mother.
“I promised everyone, I would be here for five years,” said Pogue. “I wanted to honor that.” Although retired, Pogue worked as a personal consultant before moving to Grambling.
Pogue has retired three times; this will be the fourth and, he hopes, the last. So he has gotten used to the transitional period for hiring a new president. He usually likes to be at the university to introduce the new president to the student body and community, and to expose his “good will” among his new constitutes.
His last day is June 30. If invited, he would love to come back to help Grambling celebrate finding a new leader.
Pogue understands the importance of relationships. “My goal is to keep people focused on Grambling, ” said Pogue, “not on individual issues, not people who back-bite and undermine. Those things exist in all communities.”
Grambling has been at the center of a lot of negative media attention recently, because of severe state budget cuts and the football team’s boycott.
“It’s about time, maybe Grambling will get the leader it needs,” said Christopher Bowman, 20, a junior criminal justice major from Shreveport. “Not to say he hasn’t done good for the university, but there are a lot of more issues that need to be addressed especially with the student body.”
But, some students still remember the good things Pogue established for the university.
“Pogue found ways to get the students more involved,” said Plains, a graduate developmental education major from Ferriday. “He gave us a sense of why we came to Grambling. He was an active face on campus attending several events, eating lunch in the cafeteria and actively communicating with the students needs and concerns.”
During his tenure as president, Pogue recaptured many aspects of GSU. All of the academic programs up for accreditation were fully accredited by their respective agencies in 2010. The G-Men football team won the SWAC Championship in 2011. That same year, the administration established the Grambling University Foundation. GSU acquired 157 acres of land and 47 buildings, which was named the GSU West Campus Annex in 2012. In 2013, major campus beautification initiatives were announced, including the repaving of parking lots and sidewalks, repainting of Jacob T. Stewart, planting of trees and shrubs, and other improvements.
“Greatness doesn’t happen overnight and life is not perfect,” said Russell Simms, 21, a junior accounting and management major from New Orleans. “While Dr. Pogue was in office he has done an outstanding job. I hope and pray that we can get another leader like him or bÃªte that can and will fight for the university and the student body.”
While there is no clear-cut front-runner for the next president of the university, Pogue gives some advice to his successor.
“When you enter Grambling, it has its own culture. Get to know that culture, the people before you make any major changes,” said Pogue. “Do not enter the institution assuming nothing was done before you got here because it is 113 years of (tradition).”
Pogue urges the community, students, supporters, staff and faculty to come together during this transitional period, and focus on the positive things and work on changing the negative.