2019 RJT Byline

Thomas Hudson, J.D., holds a political science degree from Jackson State University and a law degree from the University of Mississippi. After being named acting president of JSU on Monday, Hudson said he is humbled by the opportunity. (Photo by Charles A. Smith)

Thomas Hudson, J.D., holds a political science degree from Jackson State University and a law degree from the University of Mississippi. After being named acting president of JSU on Monday, Hudson said he is humbled by the opportunity. (Photo by Charles A. Smith)

Thomas Hudson, J.D., will serve as acting president of Jackson State University until a permanent president is appointed, according to Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr., commissioner of Higher Education.

On Thursday, during a combined senate meeting of JSU faculty and staff, Rankins told the audience that he was “here for one reason, and that is to support Jackson State University and Thomas Hudson.”

The College Board named Hudson acting president Monday after the abrupt resignation of Dr. William B. Bynum Jr., the HBCUs 11th president, due to a highly-publicized personal matter.

Rankins reminded those in attendance that Jackson State is a great university, much bigger than one individual or incident.

He then stated, “When the board voted to appoint Thomas Hudson as acting president, it was not with the intent of appointing an interim president at a later point,” said Rankins. “It is the intent of the board that Thomas Hudson lead this university until a search is completed for a permanent president.”

The commissioner explained that Hudson was qualified for the job, loves the university, and is also an alum.

“The most important thing that everyone can do is rally behind, get in the trenches with, Thomas Hudson, as this university moves forward,” advised Rankins. “He is your leader. He is competent.”

The commissioner said he met with Hudson and shared his expectation that the acting president leads and makes decisions as if he were the president. “I don’t need someone sitting in the seat. I need a problem solver working on the issues and moving this institution forward,” said Rankins.

Alfred Rankins, commissioner of Higher Education, urged JSU faculty and staff to rally behind Thomas Hudson, acting president. (Photo special to JSU)

Alfred Rankins, commissioner of Higher Education, urged JSU faculty and staff to rally behind Thomas Hudson, acting president. (Photo special to JSU)

Plans regarding a search for more permanent leadership have not fully developed, Rankins explained. However, discussions would likely commence next week during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting. He added that the board’s main focus was filling the university’s sudden void in leadership.

During a Q&A session, some attendees expressed discontent with the handling of the previous presidential search citing broken promises and recommendations from JSU stakeholders seemingly ignored. The shared opinion was a need for the board to understand that this time around promises and agreements would be upheld.

Although he was not commissioner at the time of the 2017 JSU presidential search, Rankins said he heard in great detail from alumni and supporters of Jackson State the issues that were involved.

“Each time there is a search there is reflection by the board on what went right and what went wrong. What I can commit to as commissioner is that I will advise the board not to make any mistakes that were made in the past,” said the commissioner drawing applause.

Before taking his seat, Rankins stated that today is about Jackson State University and moving forward.

Hudson then addressed faculty and staff regarding Bynum’s departure.

“This is a very tough moment for me. It’s a tough moment for all of us. It’s tough because none of this was planned by any of us, but here we are, and we’re in this together.”

He also called for no judgment and requested prayers for Bynum and his family.

Hudson then referenced his 12 years as a JSU employee. His most recent position was special assistant to the president and chief diversity officer. He then shared that his JSU affiliation runs deep.

“My mother was a divorced mom of seven, and she had to bring her youngest child to class at JSU. She couldn’t afford daycare, and I wasn’t school age,” said Hudson. “When she sought to lift her family out of poverty, by continuing her education, JSU was there for her like it has been for all of us.”

He then reiterated that he does not take his presidential duties lightly.

“I’m not perfect, although perfection is what I seek. I will make mistakes, and yes, there are tough decisions to be made, and they won’t always be popular, but we’ll make them together.”

However, Hudson promised that for the duration of his leadership, the faculty and staff have his full support as “we all do the work to make JSU the best it can be for our students.”