Almost 131 years ago, Steward Wylie, a member of Atlanta’s Big Bethel AME Church, made a courageous plea to his church members that if they could furnish a room at Clark College, they could build a school of their own.
Armed with faith and belief in his mission, Morris Brown College, one of Georgia’s most treasured institutions, opened its doors. It is this type of fortitude and dedication to higher education upon which the college was founded. It stands to reason why its alumni and supporters are fiercely committed to stopping the financial hemorrhaging of its beloved institution.
As many were unfortunately led to believe in the media, the developers FD LLC had no intention on building a check cashing store, pawn shops or any establishment of that kind on or near the campus. In fact, the plan called for a state-of-the-art hotel to be built with secured parking for guest. Morris Brown would partner with the hotel to re-establish its Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management Program, which for many years, was an internationally-renowned program. This plan did not pose a threat in any way to the health and well-being of the neighborhood in which the students live and study. Instead, this economic engine could have fueled significant benefits to the Atlanta University Center and the surrounding community by creating a first-class conference center that could compete successfully statewide for educational and other conferences and meetings.
In August 2012, Morris Brown filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to prevent the foreclosure and sale of the school at an auction. The college has since formed a strategic planning committee of qualified professionals from highly-respected accounting and financial firms to help with the reorganization process, streamline the fundraising process, and ensure adequate funding resources to meet monthly financial obligations. Measures are in place to create greater accountability and transparency from its administrators. Finally, alumni across the globe have pledged their financial support to their alma mater.
The closure of Morris Brown would serve as a detrimental loss to the city of Atlanta. The college has empowered hundreds and thousands of men and women including Alberta Williams King, the mother of Dr. King, Gloria Atchison, wife of business executive and Tea Party activist Herman Cain, Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Alan McPherson, Mrs. Sylvia Reed, the mother of Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed, and countless of other notables.
Many of Morris Brown’s graduates were from lower socioeconomic backgrounds; the first in their families to graduate from college. These individuals are now accomplished and are visionary leaders in their fields. Even with the unfortunate loss of its accreditation, the school has maintained its mission of academic achievement by fostering intellectual vigor to develop each student’s potential.
Although Morris Brown’s financial challenges seem insurmountable, one can only be reminded of its rich legacy, the commitment of its founding fathers, and the graduates who have made their indelible mark on society and the nation.
On behalf of the alumni and supporters of Morris Brown College, we kindly ask for your prayers and support as we lay the foundation for a viable future.
Mr. Miller is a 2012 graduate of Morris Brown College.