Group petitions Morris College to consider Canty for its president

310 signatures submitted after deadline; no word from board

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 2/9/18

A local grassroots campaign last fall to get a Sumter leader to be considered as a candidate for the Morris College presidency is now taking its efforts to the next level.

Sumter County resident Carlton Washington, leader of a petition campaign …

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Group petitions Morris College to consider Canty for its president

310 signatures submitted after deadline; no word from board

Posted

A local grassroots campaign last fall to get a Sumter leader to be considered as a candidate for the Morris College presidency is now taking its efforts to the next level.

Sumter County resident Carlton Washington, leader of a petition campaign to have the Rev. Ralph Canty be considered for Morris' president opening, made his comments Thursday.

After submitting a petition to the college board's search committee in October with about 310 signatures for Canty to be considered as a candidate and not hearing any response to date, Washington on Thursday sent out a letter of appeal to each of Morris' 27 board of trustees members.

Washington said it's time for the full board to get involved in the process.

A lobbyist for the South Carolina State Employees Association by trade, Washington said he was approached in October by Morris alumni about helping to direct a petition campaign for Canty's candidacy.

He said he submitted the petition to the presidential selection committee later that month, even though it was about one week after the application deadline.

Washington isn't disputing that his group missed the application deadline for the committee, but he said he feels strongly that Canty should still be considered for the position.

"I think the selection committee is wrestling with the petition request coming in after the deadline," Washington said. "But our contention is that at the end of the day, what should be done is what's best for the college."

He cited various challenges the college faces related to legal health issues with a mold infestation case, declining student enrollment and financial concerns.

Washington said the new leader of the college needs to be someone who knows the community and local legislative delegation, is an established leader and can hit the ground running.

Washington said he and the other petitioners think Canty is that man because of his business background, leadership in the community as a church pastor and background in the state Legislature.

Canty, 72, has been president of Job's Mortuary in Sumter for 47 years and also serves as a pastor of two area churches - Savannah Grove Baptist Church in Effingham in Florence County and pastor of West End Community Church in Sumter. A Sumter native, he also served in the state House of Representatives from 1990-99. He has been a school board member in Sumter County for the last 10 years.

"When you do the checkoff list, at every benchmark Dr. Canty gets checked off," Washington said. "We just think this is a critical time for leadership at Morris College and that Dr. Canty is best qualified to provide the kind of leadership that's necessary."

Washington said Morris' board has a responsibility to do what's best for the college.

"If Dr. Canty's application did not make the deadline, but he might be the best candidate, then the board has a fiduciary responsibility to vet that," Washington said. "Even if that means starting the process over again or adding Dr. Canty or the Board of Trustees getting involved directly."

When contacted Thursday, Canty said, for the record, he didn't submit an application for the president's opening and didn't seek the position in any way. But he said if the Board of Trustees wants him to serve as president, he would do the job. He reiterated, though, that he is not actively seeking the position.

Canty is a 1967 graduate of Morris College with two bachelor's degrees - one in social studies and the other in theology.

A phone call to the chairman of the Morris Presidential Selection Committee, the Rev. Mack Hines, was not returned by press time Thursday.

Morris College's Board of Trustees named Leroy Staggers, an academic dean at the college, as interim president last year after the retirement of Luns Richardson on June 30. He is still serving in that post.