President Tisdale: Looking back, looking forward

May 07, 2019

President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale addresses Panther reporters on April 18. (Panther photo)



Dr. Henry N. Tisdale joined The Panther staff April 18 for a news conference about his 25 years as president of Claflin University.

The president reflected on the history of the institution, its current status and future endeavors.

“I come at a special time, I come as you know during the 150th anniversary of the university. I come at a very special time in history for this institution,” he said.

 Claflin has a special place in higher education, Tisdale said. Founded in 1869, it is the oldest established HBCU in South Carolina.

“Claflin’s history of being diverse and inclusive throughout the 150 … is very distinct,” Tisdale said. “We celebrate this great university and its history. I encourage the students to learn as much as you can about the history. Coming back to Claflin as president gave me the opportunity to really learn how special this institution really is.”

.Tisdale highlighted the priorities that he began with 25 years ago:

  • Strengthen the faculty                                        
  • Develop high-quality academic programs
  • Grow the student population
  • Gain resources to help continue bring in funds
  • Academic excellence

“For Claflin University I wanted academic excellence to be the flagship, the thing that we celebrate with great pride,” he said.

There has been much change during Tisdale’s 25 years at Claflin, from enrollment to faculty and staff.

He said 1995 enrollment was about 900 and today the university has 2,2,00 students. And the profile of students has changed, with average SAT scores having gone up 200 points. Faculty and staff have changed, with faculty numbers growing from about 50 to 130 today.

“Only half had terminal degrees or Ph.Ds. Now 83% have terminal degrees,” he said.

When Tisdale came to the presidency, none of Claflin’s programs was nationally accredited. Now teacher education, business, music and chemistry all hold national accreditation.

“Our computer program and the nursing program were visited this year and we know they will be nationally accredited.”

Academically the programs at Claflin have been gaining more recognition. In 1994 Claflin did not have any significance when it came to national or regional rank. In 2019 the university is consistently recognized by national publications as a top liberal arts institution.

U.S. News & World Report included Claflin this year among the 100 top liberal arts institutions. It was in the top 10 among HBCUs. “We are now #7. We moved up two spaces,” Tisdale said.

“So in articulating the vision and setting the tone as to what we wanted to do to move the university to new levels, I say that vision has been realized,” Tisdale said.

The president said his unfinished business includes raising scholarship money for the students through The Focus 100, a need-based scholarship for Claflin students.

“We recently had a gala and raised $250,000 in scholarships, and my fraternity brothers of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. donated another $250,000,” Tisdale said. “So far we have raised $900,000 and we will raise a million dollars by the end of this year.”

Tisdale said Claflin’s future is bright under a new president.

“Remember this is my last year. I can’t say a whole lot of what Claflin will do in the future. We do have a strategic plan in place and the university, I know, will continue to follow that plan. You should know that it’s called Claflin Leads, A Shared Vision for the 21st Century.”

“I’m sure in the future the plan will be tweaked and whatever is needed will happen, but remember there is a plan to guide the university.”



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