Morehouse College’s effort to bring stability to its campus took a surprisingly sad turn Thursday when it announced its interim president, Bill Taggart, died.
Taggart was named interim president in April after the board of trustees removed John Silvanus Wilson and its board leadership after constant rancor between the two sides. Taggart, 55, died of an aneurysm, a spokesman for the college’s board of trustees said.
Some leaders at Morehouse, which is in the midst of its search for a new president, had hoped Taggart could fill the void permanently. Instead, the college’s board president was working on a plan Thursday to find a leader to replace Taggart, and alumni are hopeful that will happen soon to maintain stability at Morehouse, the nation’s only historically black college and university for men.
Morehouse alumni association president and trustee member Howard Willis said he was stunned to learn of Taggart’s death because he jogged daily and seemed to be in good health. Willis, a doctor, said he hoped the college could talk to Taggart at some point about whether he would take the job permanently.
“He picked up the banner and not only carried it, he ran with it,” Willis said of Taggart. “He was instrumental in getting the faculty, staff and students all on the same page. I was hopeful we would look at him for sustained leadership.”
Taggart didn’t attend Morehouse, he graduated from Howard University, but he was widely praised by students, faculty and alumni for his quick work in uniting a campus in turmoil during what should had been a momentous period in its history. Morehouse turned 150 this past school year.
“I may not have been a Morehouse Man, but I’m one in spirit,” Taggart said in an interview shortly after taking the job.
The board released an official statement saying it was grateful to Taggart for his counsel and support, offering its prayers to his family. The campus, near downtown Atlanta, was quiet Thursday as some students attended summer classes.
Taggert exerted a calming influence on the campus in a difficult time. You can read more about him, his accomplishments and the colleges desire to name a new leader at myAJC.com.
Here’s a timeline of some of the leadership changes at Morehouse College during the past six months:
Jan. 15 - The college announces president John S. Wilson’s contract will not be renewed when it expires in June.
Feb. 13 - A Fulton County Superior Court judge rules Morehouse’s by-laws allowed board chairman Robert C. Davidson to exclude student and faculty trustees from voting on Wilson’s contract.
March 7 - The college denies a report that Wilson was fired and Bill Taggart would take over the college’s day-to-day operations.
April 7 - Morehouse announces Taggart has replaced Wilson and its board of trustees has a new slate of officers.
April 13 - Taggart meets with students.
June 8 - Morehouse announces Taggart died of an aneurysm.
You can sign a legacy guestbook with condolences or memories for Mr. Taggert here.
Read about issues that led to Taggart being named interim president earlier this year.
Five things to know about what happened at Morehouse.