Florida Memorial President Resigns

Florida Memorial President Resigns

Jaffus Hardrick, Florida Memorial University’s president of five years, stepped down last week citing an unspecified health reason as the cause for his sudden resignation. 

Hardrick, who joined South Florida’s only HBCU in 2019, was set to serve as FMU’s president until 2027 after the university’s board of trustees in 2022 voted to extend his contract for five more years. Though on the post for years, Hardrick was only recently inaugurated as the school’s 14th president in an overdue investiture ceremony last March. 

“I am grateful to leadership, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the community for the success of our great university, and it’s with a heavy heart that I must end my tenure as president due to a health reason,” Hardrick said in a statement released by the university. 

Former FMU board chair William C. McCormick has been appointed interim president while a presidential search committee is created. FMU’s spokesperson Wanda Wright on Tuesday said McCormick was unavailable to comment on Hardrick’s resignation.

FMU’s provost office and National Alumni Association did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

“Under Dr. Hardrick’s leadership, significant strides were made at FMU, including the approval of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation,” said Walter Weatherington, Chairman of FMU’s Board of Trustees, in a statement provided by FMU. “We are profoundly grateful for his service and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

With Hardrick at the helm, FMU saw its football team revived after a 60-year hiatus; the creation of the first-ever TechNolij Innovation Center to close the racial wealth gap through technology education; a $1 million JPMorgan Chase donation to bolster existing technology degree programs; a $600,000 investment for a construction trade program; and mentoring opportunities through Big Brothers Big Sisters; among other things. 

He is also credited for establishing The ROAR Marching Band, which did not exist at FMU in its 140-year history before Hardrick’s arrival.

“Dr. Jaffus Hardrick is a visionary and transformational leader with 20 years of higher education experience in academic affairs, student services, human resources and diversity and community relations,” said former FMU board chair JoLinda L. Herring in a statement at the time of Hardrick’s appointment. “He has a strong community presence and involvement, and we look forward to his service to our students, faculty, staff and community.” 

But the last five years have hardly been smooth sailing for the outgoing president. 

Hardrick’s resignation comes three years after a Change.org petition called for his removal. In 2021, more than two dozen faculty members via a Survey Monkey Poll cast a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Hardrick amidst a 12-month probation invoked by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) for FMU’s failure to comply with federal, state, and financial standard requirements, as reported in The Miami Times

The university also weathered an INC Ransom cybersecurity attack;  sexual harassment allegations made by student-athletes and employees; COVID-19 spread on campus; and a board-approved decision to discontinue 16 underperforming degree programs, eliminate 18 faculty and staff positions, and lay off four tenured professors to cut costs.  

Before Hardrick’s stint at FMU, he was FIU’s vice president of Human Resources and first vice provost for Student Access & Success. Prior to that, he was an assistant vice president of Human Resources and assistant provost for Academic Affairs at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. 

“I come here with 25 years of higher learning experience, serving at FIU for 10 years … when I got here, FMU was two months away from being out of cash. … I believe when we set our hearts to set the right strategy in place, things will evolve,” Hardrick told The Miami Times in an exclusive interview during FMU’s probation period.