City fetes B-CU’s president at meet and greet

by Ashlyn Denson 

Bethune-Cookman University President E. LaBrent Chrite lay bare his plans for action to correct the financial issues that threatened the institution during a community "Meet and Greet"on Thursday, Oct. 30 hosted by the city of Daytona Beach.

Chrite told the estimated 200 people in attendance at the Midtown Cultural and Educational Center that B-CU has to satisfy its accreditation body that it had corrected the problems that caused it to place on probation or the institution will not survive.

"This is our final year," he said. "The legacy (here) is so extraordinary and powerful....The implications will be catastrophic on this community (if Bethune-Cookman went under)," he said.

A study undertaken more than 20 years ago by economist Mark Soskins suggested that B-CU had an impact of $250 million yearly on the local economy.

Chrite has hope though, saying he is pleased with the progress, so far, and expects that B-CU will get off probation. "There is no alternative in doing what is necessary," he said about the financial crisis. "We did not come here to preside over the demise of Bethune-Cookman."
Chrite, meanwhile, said that he has been overwhelmed by what he has seen. However, he still maintained an optimistic attitude about his leadership at B-CU. "There is no other place I'd rather be," he said, during the event that was hosted by the mayor and city commission.

He then took the community on a journey of his first impression of B-CU, prior to obtaining his role as president. He came here from the University of Denver, a private university in Denver, Colorado, where he served as dean of the Daniels College of Business. He said that after he decided to take the job, the negative stories in the media about B-CU's problem caused many in Denver to ask him, "Why would you go there?"

Chrite said that he and his family were not sure if this place would have survived when he first encountered B-CU. But, after spending time with students and faculty, he fell in love with the university.

The seventh president of B-CU called on the community to remain "relentlessly committed and focused on the students."

"That is not where the focus has been recently," he said, in reference to the former leadership at B-CU.

October marks Chrite's fourth month as president of B-CU. He said that in these four months that officials have "steadiedour balance sheet." He hired a new chief financial officer and new cabinet members.

"We have made difficult decisions to make major budget cuts," Chrite said, adding officials worked hard to balance the income and expenses. "Extracting ourselves from probation," he said, remains the top priority.

Chrite also talked about the need to prepare students to be competitive for the labor field. "We must prepare and mold our students to be able to adapt easily," he said.

Chrite ended on several notes, first addressing the past issues the university's had with transparency, integrity, and finances. He also said B-CU needs to ensure that it can raise and sustain the resource base. "This is not about me or my leadership team," Chrite said, "It's about the students."

Representatives from the graduate chapter of Alpha Pho Alpha Fraternity Inc., welcomed him to the city with gifts.

Cynthia Slater, president of the NAACP area chapter, also welcomed him and invited him to take out a membership.

Mayor Derrick Henry declared Oct. 30, 2019, as Dr. E. LaBrent Chrite Day.

The audience, meanwhile, got a chance to see Chrite's wife, Phyllis. He said that neither he nor his wife had attended an HBCU but they supported then and sent two of their three children to HBCUs.

"We sent out kids to HBCUs purposefully because we believe in them," he said.