The president of Hampton University is retiring in June. What’s next for William R. Harvey? – Daily Press

Hampton University President William R. Harvey has spent 44 years making decisions based on one guiding principle: to do what is right and best.

Not all of the decisions were popular, but his choices helped transform a once-struggling Hampton Institute into Hampton University with Virginia’s first proton therapy cancer center. It also became the first historically black school to lead a NASA mission, launching a satellite into space to study clouds.

Harvey will retire in June after graduating nearly 40,000 students, adding 92 college degrees – including 12 doctoral programs – and 30 campus buildings over these four plus decades. He also oversaw the growth of the university’s endowment from $29 million to $400 million.

“The growth and development I have witnessed under the successful leadership of Dr. Harvey has been, in a word, triumphant,” Administrator Wesley Coleman said in a statement after Harvey announced his retirement plans in December. 2020. “The significance of this President’s legendary contributions to Hampton will be celebrated for generations.

The Hampton Proton Therapy Institute, which opened in September 2010, was the nation’s eighth and first at a historically black college and university. He has provided treatment to over 3,000 cancer patients.

Before opening the treatment center, the university was already the first school in Virginia to offer a graduate program in medical physics, in partnership with a nearby federal nuclear research facility.

The Proton Therapy Institute was created to be an “environment where science and compassion meet” where researchers can advance the treatment of prostate, breast and lung cancers. One of the goals is for researchers to find ways to reduce damage to healthy tissue near cancer cells.

“I believe in service. I believe in helping others – and I don’t believe in doing it as an afterthought,” Harvey said. “That’s why Hampton is, I think, one of the wonders of the world.”

Harvey, 81, was born in Brewton, Alabama. He holds degrees from Talladega College, Virginia State University, and Harvard University, as well as 11 honorary doctorates.

He has served on numerous boards, including the National Geographic Society, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and is the sole owner of a plant that bottles Pepsi products in Houghton, Michigan. .

Harvey is proud to have met every sitting president since Jimmy Carter, and two presidents — George HW Bush and Barack Obama — have sat on a couch in his office.

Harvey worked at Harvard after graduating from the school and was due to be promoted to assistant dean when he decided to move south and work at a predominantly black school. Growing up as the son of a civil rights activist, it was important to him to be at an institution that provided opportunities for black students.

“In the ’60s, there weren’t a lot of African Americans in a place like Harvard,” Harvey said. “I wanted to use my training, my energy, my efforts to support African Americans.

“All my mentors and advisers said I was probably making a mistake because my star would have risen faster if I had stayed at Harvard. They might have been right, but what I told them was that I had to follow my pole star, not their pole star.

He worked in administration at Tuskegee and Fisk before landing in Hampton in 1978 to become the school’s 12th president.

Harvey said he plans to run the school like a business for educational purposes. The Hampton Institute had not had a balanced budget for over 30 years and there was talk of disbanding the college to make it a preparatory school.

As president, Harvey made several cuts, including limiting staff and faculty travel so the university would continue to operate within the revenue it generates. He takes pride in keeping the school’s budget balanced each year.

“My dad used to say, ‘Life is simple. People complicate things,” Harvey said.

Harvey has seen occasional student protests, but said he tries to work with student leaders to find solutions – such as when students told him the dining hall was insufficient. He helped raise $25 million for a new facility, which opened in 2012. When complaints about the dining hall and food resurfaced in 2018, the school created a group of 10 students who meet monthly to discuss their concerns.

Under Harvey’s leadership, academics have improved, and the average SAT score of accepted students has increased by more than 300 points. But recently, Hampton has faced challenges with the accreditation of its school of pharmacy.

Hampton sued the Accrediting Council on Pharmacy Education for refusing to accredit the program and the case is still in court. Students enrolled through the Class of 2023 will not be affected and will graduate with the same rights and privileges as those in accredited programs.

Before Harvey announced his intention to retire, he and the university also had to deal with the pandemic. He has been criticized for requiring faculty and staff to come to campus until early April – weeks after students were sent home.

Some were upset again after making Hampton the first college in Virginia to require students, faculty and staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The school offered religious and medical exemptions, but 99% of students and 98% of faculty and staff are vaccinated.

Harvey said he “really doesn’t care if people are going to put off the things that are good.”

More than two years into the pandemic, visitors to campus are still required to take a school-administered negative COVID test and must undergo temperature checks.

“I always say do what you think is right and best and then drop the chips where they can,” he said.

Harvey recently came under fire for opening the university’s doors for the upcoming summer semester to Ukrainian students.

Some, he said, felt the predominantly black university should not focus on helping predominantly white Ukrainian students, especially when there are black students in need.

But Harvey said, for him, it’s not about race. He was moved to tears as he recalled the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the recent bombardments of homes, children and maternity wards.

Since he started at Hampton, he has met monthly with student leaders and faculty. It also had 17 of its trustees become presidents of other colleges.

Harvey said he loved being the president of Hampton. In fact, he spent at least two or three hours a day working in his office on weekends and holidays. Yet he knew it was time to retire.

“I’m not a spring chicken anymore,” Harvey said. “I’m 81, but my energy level and my mental acuity, I feel like 50 or 60 years ago.”

But he knows that it will not always be so. He has other things to do.

Harvey plans to use his retirement to write. He published his first book in 2016 “Principles of Leadership: The Harvey Leadership Model”, with 10 chapters on leadership, which covered everything from having a vision and work ethic to being innovative.

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He has finished a book that has been delayed due to the pandemic and another on the way. After that, he says it will be time to get to work on his memoir. He plans to title it “The Journey Was The Reward” because “every place I went was great.”

“I believe, as honestly as I can look you in the eye and tell you, the Lord ordered my steps because I couldn’t have done all the things I’ve done if it hadn’t been the case,” he said.

Last month, Hampton University announced retired Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams as its next president. Williams received her bachelor’s degree in 1983 from the then Hampton Institute. He also has three master’s degrees from other colleges.

Harvey said he hoped the university would “continue to excel” under Williams’ leadership. He said the school had more than 23,000 applicants for about 1,000 places in its freshman class.

As for his future involvement with the university, Harvey plans to take charge of Williams.

“If he doesn’t ask me, I’m not going to get involved at all,” Harvey said. “If he asks me, I’ll be as involved as he wants because, to me, I love Hampton.”

Jessica Nolte, 757-912-1675, [email protected]

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