By Whitney Vickers and Scott Halasz
WILBERFORCE – She came, she saved the university and now she is ready to rest.
Dr. Algeania Freeman announced Wednesday that she is retiring as president of Wilberforce University.
“I came to the institution to help save the institution’s accreditation — working with the board chair, board of trustees, faculty, staff, students and administrators — we successfully saved the accreditation,” Freeman said. “Now, at 67 and a half years old, I’m going back into retirement.”
Freeman was hired by Wilberforce in October 2014 to help the university deal with the aforementioned accreditation issues. In June 2014, the school received a show-cause letter from the Higher Learning Commission, which threatened to revoke the school’s accreditation.
The HLC alleged that the university was out of compliance in several areas including a lack of effective governance, integrity of the university’s oversight of finances and adherence of policies and practices.
Losing accreditation would have proven fatal for the school as without said accreditation, students would not be able to get federal loans or grants. A large number of students receive Pell Grants according the New America Foundation, a non-partisan “think tank.”
Freeman organized a task force which authored a 3,000-plus page document stating that the university will take necessary actions and should remain accredited. The school also hosted on on-site visit by the HLC.
In November 2015, the HLC announced that it lifted the show-cause order and placed the nation’s oldest private historically black university under a standard path.
“This new board of trustees has provided dynamic leadership for Wilberforce University so that we could make the change necessary to achieve this noteworthy victory today,” Freeman said at the time. “Wilberforce University will continue to implement its five-year strategic plan that was approved by the Higher Learning Commission. The work has only begun and we will not let up, we will not give up, we will not back up. We are going forward.”
Not only does Freeman consider saving the university’s accreditation her biggest accomplishment during her time as president, but a significant achievement in her life. She said only three institutions in the history of the United States have been able to reestablish themselves after receiving a show-cause accreditation status.
And she feels that she accomplished everything she wanted to do during her leadership — saving the accreditation, working to develop a strategic five-year plan and helping the school implement that plan going forward.
Wilberforce must submit a monitoring report to the HLC in 2017, and in the 2019-20 academic year it must host a comprehensive standard accreditation pathway site visit. Freeman said she trained individuals on everything that must be done in preparation for those visits, and now, “Wilberforce (University) is ready,” she said.
“I don’t expect that it’ll ever end up on show-cause again,” Freeman said.
University officials will begin the search process for the school’s next president in a thoughtful and formal manner. They are seeking a leader with knowledge in academics, who shows care and concern for the students. They said they are feeling positive about Wilberforce University’s direction in the future. While officials have decided who will head the search committee, they have not yet established a timeline for introducing the school to its next leader.
And although Freeman has not said when her effective retirement date will take place, she is ready for one thing: sleep.
“After working on the show-cause, to be honest with you, I’m tired,” Freeman said. “I need to get some sleep and rest because we were up night and day working on it. I’ve got a few vacation days and I’m going to take it and enjoy. We will go from there.”
But that doesn’t mean Freeman won’t stay busy, even after she officially retires from Wilberforce University. She has opted to continue running her foundation, Great Opportunity Development Inc., which aims to serve disadvantaged individuals.
“It has been a pleasure to serve Wilberforce University, the greatest institution on earth,” Freeman said.
Reach Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.