From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Chair quits Mary Holmes board

Date 24 Jun 2003 16:09:20 -0400

Note #7823 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Chair quits Mary Holmes board
June 23, 2003

Chair quits Mary Holmes board

Baugh says he doesn't believe in 'long-distance leadership'

by Evan Silverstein

LOUISVILLE - Jack Baugh has resigned as chair of the board of trustees of
troubled Mary Holmes College, becoming the second high-ranking official to
leave the historic institution in a little more than a month.
Baugh, 74, who lives in Irvine, CA, said the distance between his home and
the Mississippi campus has made it difficult for him to lead the board
effectively, at a time when the college needs daily attention.
The board's chair for two years, he sent his letter of resignation to fellow
trustees and PC(USA) officials by email on June 19. 
"Mary Holmes College and all of you are and will continue to be in my
prayers," Baugh wrote.
The 111-year-old historically black two-year college in West Point, MS, has
been on shaky ground in recent years. It lost its accreditation in December
after years of financial problems, declining enrollment and struggles to
maintain a deteriorating physical plant. 
Mary Holmes may also lose crucial federal funding at the end of June, and
could lose vital funding from the Presbyterian Church (USA) at the end of the
There is talk of closing the college if a soon-to-be-drafted plan to save the
institution doesn't seem feasible to the trustees.
"Leadership needs to be fully aware of everything that is happening at the
school and in a position to provide an immediate response," he wrote. "To me,
this means that leadership must be in close proximity to the school.
Long-distance leadership does not work."
Baugh joined the board six years ago. He said his resignation is in "the best
interest of Mary Holmes." He said trying to manage from California is
"analogous to (being) an absentee landlord."
Since the financially-strapped college cannot afford to pay air fares for
trustees called to meetings on campus from homes scattered around the
country, board members have been gathering by conference call, which didn't
suit Baugh.
"It's just that I don't believe I can provide what they need from 2,000 miles
away," he told the Presbyterian News Service. "I wrestled with that, and
wrestled with it. I said, 'You know, you can't do this stuff over the
The Rev. Floyd N. Rhodes, the PC(USA)'s interim associate director of higher
education, characterized Baugh as a leader who cared about Mary Holmes and
its students.
"I appreciate Jack's commitment," said Rhodes. "I know he was committed
because I've been in several board meetings, and he's very concerned about
the school and its future and its fate. I am thankful that God has sent him
our way for a while."
Baugh, an elder and a lifelong Presbyterian, worships at Irvine Presbyterian
Church. He was a commissioner to the General Assembly in 1992, and a member
of the denomination's General Assembly Council from 1995 to 2001. He is a
retired engineering manager who worked for the Hughes Aircraft Co.
Baugh said he will remain active in the Synod of Southern California and
Hawaii. He was elected recently to the Committee on the Office of the General
Assembly (COGA), which oversees the ecclesiastical work of the church.
Nathaniel Jackson, who was hired three years ago to address the school's
chronic financial troubles, resigned as president early last month.
Two Mary Holmes staff members, Evelyn Bonner and Gail Turner, have been
appointed to manage the school's day-to-day operations. Bonner, a Mary Holmes
graduate, is director of the school's Helen R. Walton Learning Resources
Center. Turner is responsible for community relations.
A National Ministries Division subcommittee recommended last month that funds
for Mary Holmes from the PC(USA)'s annual Christmas Joy Offering be
discontinued in November. The GAC is expected to decide on the allocation,
which this year amounts to $272,211, when it meets in September.

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