GVSU business dean among two finalists for Fisk U. president
Not every presidential election was decided on Tuesday, and an important one for West Michigan could be soon.
Fisk University is considering H. James Williams, Grand Valley State University’s dean of the Seidman College of Business, as one of two finalists in its presidential search.
Current Fisk President Hazel O’Leary plans to retire on Dec. 31 and the renowned historical black college has announced that Williams and Lawrence Drake, chairman and CEO of Hope 360 Degrees, are the two remaining candidates for the position.
Williams said he was honored to be considered a finalist, calling Fisk a real national treasure.
“Anyone who knows the history of the school, knows it was the first university for slaves after the emancipation. They really have a history of developing talented students over the years and have an impeccable academic reputation,” he said. “Growing up as an African-American, you can’t help but grow up knowing about Fisk.”
Williams is scheduled to visit Fisk’s campus on Monday to meet with students, faculty and administration. He is uncertain when he will be informed whether he gets the job, but if he does, he presumes he would start in July.
Williams received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from North Carolina Central University and his MBA in accounting from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also holds a Ph.D. in accounting from the University of Georgia.
Fisk reached out to Williams through a professional headhunter, he said, which is not uncommon for him. A few years ago, Williams was offered the presidency at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, he said, but turned it down to stay at Grand Valley.
Williams said he loves the community in West Michigan and that even if he doesn’t get the Fisk post, there is still plenty of enjoyable work to be done at GVSU.
“There are a lot of great things going on here and we’re moving forward aggressively. While this (presidential search) is going on, it’s not a distraction to me,” he said. “Would I remain at GVSU if I didn’t get the job? Oh, absolutely. At least, at this point, no one’s calling for my head.”