JACKSON – Alcorn State University President M. Christopher Brown II has resigned amid an investigation into university purchasing practices.
The resignation was announced Thursday by Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds.
Brown did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday. In a resignation letter dated Wednesday, he said he wanted to resign because “the emergent management focus on internal operations confirms that now is an ideal time to transition.”
Bounds said a continuing investigation into purchasing practices has already led to the resignation of two other Alcorn employees. They include special assistant for university initiatives Jeremy Mason and former Chief Financial Officer Betty Roberts.
Bounds wouldn’t say whether Brown is believed to have done anything wrong. He said the College Board has turned over its findings to state Auditor Stacey Pickering and the state Ethics Commission. That’s an indication that civil or criminal penalties could be pending against those involved.
Brett Kittredge, a spokesman for Pickering, confirmed the auditor’s office has begun an inquiry. He declined further comment.
Norris Edney, a former interim president at Alcorn State, was named acting president immediately.
“We’ll make certain that we are prepared to open up the campus in January and we will work to make sure we have appropriate financial leadership in place,” Bounds told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
College Board President Bob Owens will appoint a committee to search for Brown’s successor.
“Any time you have a leadership change, you have questions about what’s next and who’s going to lead,” Bounds said. “I think we have good momentum and I think the board will be very committed to moving quickly through a search process.”
Brown had led Alcorn State since 2010 and brought national recognition to the 5,000-student land-grant university in southwest Mississippi. Alcorn was named the historically black college of the year in 2012, and recruited Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of Medgar Evers, to join its faculty.
“He has done a fantastic job in publicizing or branding the university,” said James Stubbs of Long Beach, the president of Alcorn’s alumni association.
Brown’s resignation was announced on the same day that Alcorn was featured on the syndicated Tom Joyner radio show. The host raises money for historically black colleges and universities.
Stubbs said he talked to Brown on Thursday and got the impression he was forced to resign. “I believe that is accurate,” he said. Bounds, though, said neither he nor anyone else with the College Board had asked Brown to go.
The College Board has held a series of closed meetings in recent weeks to discuss the Alcorn situation. The board said it was discussing personnel issues, a clue that Brown’s job was in peril because the board appoints presidents at each of Mississippi’s eight universities.
Before becoming president of Alcorn State, Brown was provost at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., and dean of education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.