GREENSBORO — N.C. It is said that you can never go home again. Try telling that to Harold Martin . North Carolin A&T State University welcomed back alumnus and former faculty member Harold Martin on Friday morning, as its new chancellor.
“It is a great pleasure to come home,” Martin told the crowd assembled at the UNC Board of Governors meeting held on A&T’s campus.
The board unanimously approved Martin, whom system President Erskine Bowles called a mentor, colleague and friend.
He said he could not imagine a better man to lead A&T.
“Harold Martin is a proud Aggie,” Bowles said. “He personifies Aggie pride. He is not only a graduate of A&T; he has also been a faculty member, dean and provost at A&T. He knows this institution inside and out. He is of North Carolina A&T.”
Franklin McCain, who led the chancellor search committee, said this was one of the fastest searches in UNC history, leading Bowles to joke that “we didn’t have to look far.”
Martin, chancellor of Winston-Salem State University from 2000 to 2006, was widely considered the best candidate for the job by Aggies alumni. They have been frustrated by the short tenure and abrupt resignations of the school’s last two chancellors.
Martin was passed over for the job in 1999 and did not apply when it opened again two years ago. Bowles said he asked Martin to join him at UNC general administration instead, where he was chief academic officer.
Many Aggies cried openly when Martin was officially announced as their new leader.
“It’s great to see him come back home,” former student body president Marcus Bass said. “Every year at graduation they challenge us to come back to A&T and give back to the school. There’s no better way he could do that than this.”
Many Aggies said they trusted Martin with the school’s future, citing his work at Winston-Salem State. While chancellor there, Martin saw the school’s average incoming SAT score increase nearly 70 points. The school’s enrollment doubled, and he helped create some of its most successful programs.
“His being an Aggie isn’t the most important thing,” said Kitty Harrigan, a 1978 graduate who high-fived friends as the crowd gave Martin a standing ovation. “This is a man who is qualified to lead this university into the 21st century.”
Martin said he plans to continue the academic progress of outgoing Chancellor Stanley Battle, who resigned in February citing family and personal reasons.
“I want to say publicly that I thank Chancellor Battle and his staff for the progress that was made under his leadership,” Martin said.
Battle has not spoken about his resignation since it was announced in February. But some close to the chancellor and the faculty senate said Battle’s push to make sweeping changes and raise standards caused tension.
Chancellor Battle will collect his chancellor’s salary during a six-month sabbatical after he resigns — and then take a tenured faculty position at the school.
There is much work to do at the school, which has struggled financially and academically, Martin said. He expects cooperation from the staff, he said, and thinks they will trust him to make the necessary changes.
“Being a product of the institution and knowing so many people associated with the institution, I don’t believe there will be as much anxiety about trust,” Martin said. “That, I think, is a critical part of what’s needed to communicate effectively, to engage with people.”
Martin said he has high expectations for the school but knows that realizing them won’t be easy.
“No, I don’t walk on water,” Martin said jokingly to the crowd. “And yes, I will need the help of each of you.”
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