We’re back for another President’s Corner! This week, HBCU Buzz founder and CEO Luke Lawal Jr. interviewed Larry Robinson, president of Florida A&M University. During the conversation, which you can find on the HBCU Buzz YouTube page, Robinson discussed his hopes for FAMU, some funny stories we’ve never heard before, and why FAMU is the place to be.
“I’ve enjoyed various roles at FAMU,” he said laughing. Going back 25 years, Larry Robinson has been everything from a provost to president. He began as a visiting professor in 1995, when Lockheed Martin had paid for him to teach a class there. After some time, he became provost, and over the years, before sitting in as FAMU’s interim president 3 separate times. Then in 2017 he became President Larry Robinson!
Aside from the work, Robinson keeps his spirits up with family. He has 3 daughters, and he and his wife recently celebrated 36 years of marriage. He spends time working out on the beautiful paths and trails on the FAMU campus. “I’ve been running, and jogging, and walking,” said Robinson.
When Luke asked what was something he’d never forget through his time at FAMU, he had a funny story. “On May 10, 2010 I was sworn in as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Obama Administration on the steps of Lee Hall,” he said, setting the scene. “I didn’t go to Washington to do it, they sent the people here. Because if you remember at that time, we were in the midst of perhaps the most significant environmental catastrophes in our nation’s history and that is the BP oil spill. We had done a lot of research in the Gulf of Mexico as part of a newer funding initiative. And I had to give a lot of props to the students and faculty although I was the director of that center…
“I remember we had everything set up right. There was one person from D.C. that called in to do the swearing in. And there was one thing missing. They didn’t have a bible! They asked the small crowd gathered there, they asked did anybody have a bible. And you should have seen all the women reaching in their purses and bringing out their bibles! It was one of those moments that’s something I’ll never forget. Just being part of the first African American president’s administration. And having the swearing-in ceremony at one of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities. Doesn’t get much better than that.”
For Robinson, it is easy to share why anyone should want to come to FAMU. For one, the university has a long list of accolades, which has recently included being named the top public institution in Florida by US News. The university also has initiatives like the “FAMU Rising” 5-year strategic plan, which from 2017-2022 has helped FAMU position itself financially for the years to come. Prospective students and their families can rest assured that FAMU has the funding and resources needed for them to succeed.
“For any parent thinking about where to send your sons or daughters, you really have to think along and hard about the opportunities that they will likely realize on this campus as well as other HBCUs across the nation, Robinson said. “ It’s at the point Luke where it’s almost irresponsible for an African American parent, really anybody, to not take a closer look at sending one of their loved ones to be educated at one of these very fine institutions.”
Student-athletes are welcomed at FAMU as well. In fact, Robinson welcomes the top athletic talent to not overlook FAMU as a place for them to call home. “I really hope and pray that some of these student athletes have looked across the tracks and other places recognize that you can be just as great here as any other campus,” he said. You have to give this place due consideration.”
In fact, there are a couple greats to think about that hail from FAMU already! “A couple years ago we named our tennis complex after a great Rattler,” said Robinson. “But most people don’t realize, long before Serena and Venus, right, there was Althea Gibson. She was the first African American female to win a so-called major. In 1956, right! It didn’t just start yesterday. She’s a graduate of Florida A&M University. She went on to win 11 majors. When most of us were just crawling around on our hands and knees! So these institutions have done so much for this nation. I’m just glad to see people like you Luke help put a spotlight on it.”
To learn more about FAMU President Larry Robinson, read one of our previous articles on him here. Also, be sure to tune into the President’s Corner every week for more great interviews!