Back in May 2015, President Elmira Mangum replaced Carmen Cummings-Martin with John Michael Lee as the “New Head of Alumni Affairs.” But last month, Lee began a “special assistant” job in the Office of President. Cummings-Martin is back to being the leading administrator in OAA. Her new title is “Senior Executive Director of University Engagement and Alumni Affairs.” She had previously held the title “Executive Director” since her initial hiring in 2007.
Reinstating Cummings-Martin is good, but it doesn’t come close to fixing what Mangum and Cotton have done to OAA.
Mangum has never gotten along well with the current FAMU National Alumni Association (NAA) leadership. Back in 2014, the NAA Executive Board urged the FAMU Board of Trustees to consider then-Interim President Larry Robinson for the permanent presidency instead of endorsing Mangum’s candidacy. It also passed a “no confidence” vote in Mangum’s first athletic director, Kellen Winslow, who later resigned.
The next year Mangum gave Lee, one of her loudest supporters, a $130,000 per year salary to run OAA. He was named an assistant vice president while Cummings-Martin stayed on as executive director.
Mangum’s decision to make Lee the “New Head of Alumni Affairs” was suspicious because one of the most important jobs for any university’s top alumni affairs official is communication. Cummings-Martin is a former news anchor who proved that she was one of the best communicators in the city of Tallahassee. But Lee’s poor writing actually became the subject of a discussion at a FAMU Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting.
The rift between Mangum and the NAA leadership continued to grow. Back in July 2015, NAA President Tommy Mitchell expressed the concerns that many alumni had about Mangum’s support of changes that led to FAMU losing budget authority for the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering after 28 years. The NAA later declined an invitation to join a group of state lawmakers who held a press conference to request the resignation of the then-BOT Chairman Rufus Montgomery, who was a big critic of Mangum.
The Mangum administration later began making even more dramatic changes to OAA that Mitchell said were harmful to the NAA. The university laid off Regina Gardner, assistant director of accounting, and Brandon Hill, coordinator of alumni engagement and membership services in late 2015. Mitchell, speaking on behalf of the NAA Executive Board, told Mangum that those ousters hurt the NAA because Gardner and Hill carried out “duties that are crucial to the FAMU NAA accomplishing its mission and goals for this academic year with success.”
Mangum responded by telling Mitchell that she was fine with the personnel changes that Vice-President for Advancement George Cotton made in the OAA.
FAMU’s Office of Alumni Affairs is still limping from the hits it took during what appeared to be a politicized battle Mangum waged against the NAA. The damage from that remains far from repaired.