Memphis Daily News

Andrea Miller is the new president of LeMoyne-Owen College and will be the first woman to lead the Memphis institution.

Miller starts her duties Sept. 1 and succeeds Johnnie Watson as the 12th president of the 153-year-old historically black college.

The 1976 LeMoyne-Owen alumna has been chancellor of Baton Rouge Community College since 2012.

Robert Lipscomb, chairman of the college’s trustees, announced the choice Thursday, June 11, on the steps of Brownlee Hall as several dozen students, alumni and other supporters stood on the South Memphis campus’ front lawn.

Lipscomb acknowledged vigorous debate among the trustees and several rounds of voting. He said the final vote was unanimous and that he and others sought a unanimous vote for Watson’s successor.

The vote was a choice between Miller and Rhodes College vice president Russ Wigginton, the other finalist in the national search.

Watson was the first alumnus to serve as president of the college. He was named the college’s 11th president in 2008 after taking the job two years earlier on an interim basis. The school was forced to right itself financially following “no confidence” votes by the faculty aimed at school’s previous leadership.

Watson said the school’s only problem was financial, similar to problems faced by many historically black colleges and universities.

He tied the school’s development and growth during his tenure to the nearby Soulsville development in the South Memphis area.

The institution marked its 150th anniversary in 2012 and by then had doubled its size from the 2006 low of 500 students.

The school opened a new $13.5 million residence hall in 2013 with room for 336 students to live on campus.

Watson also oversaw the college’s move to business programs for students 25 and older looking to complete their degree after initially leaving higher education pursuits. LeMoyne-Owen has retained its primary role as an educator of teachers.

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