Bethune-Cookman interim President Hiram Powell ends 42-year run at alma mater, retiring
Hiram Powell, Bethune-Cookman University’s interim president — and an employee of the Daytona Beach school for 42 years — is retiring, the university announced late Wednesday.
No replacement was immediately announced. The school’s board of trustees is “undertaking a thorough and inclusive search process among a diverse pool of qualified applicants” to become the eighth president. An interim president will be named “in the coming weeks,” according to the B-CU statement. That person will become the fifth person to hold the job of president or interim president since Edison Jackson resigned in 2017 amid a string of financial, legal and academic problems.
B-CU has righted the ship on a number of fronts, setting legal disputes, exiting academic probation, convincing lawmakers to kick in $13 million in recurring, annual funds and landing a $108 million federal loan to help wriggle out of a dorm deal gone wrong.
School officials did not respond to a request for comment.
“Dr. Powell had considered retiring in 2021, but he answered the university’s call when the board asked him to serve as interim president for one year to oversee the reaffirmation of the university’s accreditation. With that process successfully complete and the one-year term ending, he has decided to retire,” the university statement reads. “We thank Dr. Powell for his longstanding service and commitment to the university and wish him and his family continued success in the future.”
Music was Powell’s ticket
A gifted and dedicated musician, Powell attended Bethune-Cookman starting in 1973, performing in the marching band. He graduated in 1976 and started work as a high school music teacher.
In 1980, he took a pay cut to become B-CU’s assistant band director and has since served the institution in many different roles — including professor, dean of performing arts and communications, provost, vice president for institutional advancement and dean of graduate studies.
In a 2021 profile, Powell said the school’s colors, maroon and gold, and the spirit of the university’s founder, Mary McLeod Bethune, are in his DNA.
Her last will and testament has always been Powell’s focus, he said. To remind himself of that, he hung a photo of Bethune, which he eyed near the end of each workday.
“I’ll look up at her and I’ll say to myself in my mind, ‘How did I do? Have I done enough today? Can I go?'” Powell told The News-Journal. “And if I don’t feel right about it, I’ll go right back to work.”