Reimagining Wiley College:
Historically Black College Renews President’s Contract for Five Years
(Marshall, TX) July 26, 2021 – The Wiley College Board of Trustees affirmed the leadership of current President & CEO, Herman J. Felton, Jr., J.D., Ph.D., by voting unanimously to extend his contract for five more years, signaling their continued support in the college’s trajectory under his leadership.
Outgoing Chairman and current Vice-Chairman of the Wiley College Board of Trustees, Walter L. Sutton, Jr., J.D., Ph.D., captured the sentiments of members of the board when he shared his belief that President Felton “was—and is—the right leader at the right time, particularly during the Pandemic. Students can relate to him, he’s straightforward with the board, and he knows his way around Washington, having recently secured $2.5 million in EDA funds for the College.”
“This affirmation illustrates the shared vision between the board and myself to continue this important work as thought partners. My excitement approaching this next chapter is routed in my fond appreciation of board governance that supports me continuously and offers help we asked,” shared President Felton.
For the last three years, President Felton and his team at Wiley College moved with an intentional focus on strengthening its impact on the local economy as one of the largest employers in the city, increasing the physical growth of the campus with the establishment of the Wiley College Welcome Center and remodeling of two historic buildings on campus – Cole Library and Pemberton Complex. His efforts have also positioned Wiley College to develop a Workforce and Economic Development Center in collaboration with local officials to increase student experience and community access, and to receive gifts from EDA, PayPal, SWEPCO, Capitol One, all while stewarding relations with the institution’s historic religious partner – The United Methodist Church.
Recently elected Chairman of the Wiley College Board of Trustees, Billy Casey, a 1972 alumnus of the College, has seen many changes and many relationships forged along the way that are indicative of President Felton’s pragmatic leadership. Chairman Casey shared that “he has kept the relationship strong with the United Methodist Church which is very important to Wiley. We made a great choice, and he is doing an awesome job. He’s an accessible president and has made good headway in building community relationships.”
As Wiley College celebrates its reopening, welcoming back the campus community on August 2nd, the campus is reminded that the institution was faced with responding to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic early last year. Vice-Chairman Sutton noted President Felton’s extraordinary leadership under crisis when he shared that through Felton’s foresight, he was among the first presidents to close campus in advance of the COVID-19 Pandemic to keep students, faculty, and staff safe. Having successfully come through the COVID-19 Pandemic, President Felton is poised to continue the College’s growth and focus on students.
“Wiley is not just home of The Great Debaters, but home to outstanding scholars, athletes, activists, and vocalists,” Felton said. LaTanya Winward is a rising senior majoring in biology and is the reigning Miss Wiley College. She describes President Felton as accessible and open to hearing the needs of all students. “He really is all about his students, supportive, and open,” Winward said. “I appreciate the family atmosphere on campus, the supportive staff, and I’m excited to see the campus changes when we return for classes this fall.”
Under the leadership of President Felton and in concert with the board, Wiley College has reduced its tuition to become the most affordable HBCU in the state of Texas, expanded its credentialed administration, and secured local and federal grants totaling more than $3 million. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, President Felton was led to situate the College in leading to critical discussions on the social justice movement and its impact in the Marshall community, including advocating for removing a confederate statue in front of the courthouse downtown. Additionally, Wiley recently honored alumna Opal Lee, who helped make Juneteenth a national holiday, and the College is bridging the digital divide for the community by creating a center that will give residents public access to the internet, which is critical in rural areas.
“My goal is to strengthen our posture and enhance our exposure to shore up our value proposition – as a premier liberal arts institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church with an intentional focus on social good.” President Felton shared. Over the next five years he and the campus community are embarking on the journey to solidify Wiley College’s value proposition by increasing enrollment, retention, and fundraising, implementing the Workforce and Economic Development Center with a particular focus on continuing Wiley’s presence in the Marshall, TX community, continuing to strengthen the College’s fiscal solvency, maintaining the College’s academic quality, and establishing innovative graduate programs.
“President Felton has reset the legacy and purpose of Wiley College within the Marshall community,” said Nolan H. Anderson, Jr., president of the Wiley College National Alumni Association Inc. A 1969 graduate of the College who grew up in Marshall, Anderson has seen a renaissance of Wiley, thanks to Felton’s leadership. “He has been a plus-plus and a win-win for Wiley College, and we are confident he will continue to expand his vision in the years to come.”
About Wiley College: Founded in 1873 in Marshall, Texas, Wiley College is a historically black, primarily liberal arts, residential, co-educational, baccalaureate degree-granting institution affiliated with The United Methodist Church. Committed to the principle of educational access, the College serves traditional and non-traditional students from diverse backgrounds who have expressed a desire and potential for learning in a Christian environment. Home of “The Great Debaters,” Wiley has an intentional focus on social good and leadership and its motto is “Go forth Inspired.”