B-CU board starts its own alumni support organization, says it replaces NAA – Daytona Beach News-Journal

Bethune-Cookman University is developing its own direct-support organization in an effort to replace the independent B-CU National Alumni Association.
The Daytona Beach school will roll out its plans in a virtual town hall Thursday night. The move comes just months after the NAA, which has a charter separate from the school, took a vote of no confidence in the Board of Trustees.
B-CU officials, in a statement prepared for The News-Journal, said founding their own alumni organization is a matter of “best practices,” and compared it to how other universities manage relations with their graduates.
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“Currently, the best practice model relative to alumni affairs in higher education is the Direct Service Organization (DSO) model, which all universities in Florida’s higher education system utilize and which B-CU has thoroughly reviewed,” the statement reads. “Therefore, as part of the university’s overall and ongoing change initiatives the Board of Trustees has voted to create a DSO to better support the university and its alumni.”
Hiram Powell, the university’s interim president, expounded on the change, in a statement: “As part of our overall strategic growth, we have determined that repurposing alumni relations will fortify and unify our relationships with our former students, while also enhancing their ability to generate authentic, impactful financial support of the university. We have conducted a detailed look at what is working for other universities and are convinced that this national model is the standard.”
Another document provided to The News-Journal by school officials calls the organization the “DSO Alumni Association.” Its goals are described in the document:
Board Chairman Belvin Perry, through board spokeswoman Sara Brady, declined to discuss the move.
But in an invitation to the virtual town hall, the university states: “The National Alumni Association will be replaced by this DSO model, which has a proven track record of increasing alumni support and fundraising. The university would like to thank the NAA for their years of service as we make this transition.”
Willie Walker, a Jacksonville attorney representing the National Alumni Association, sent the B-CU board a letter dated Sept. 13, stating that disassociating from the NAA “would obviously bring significant harm to the name and standing of Bethune-Cookman University,” damaging finances and recruiting.
“Such a move would undoubtedly engender mass confusion, ill-will and ultimately, apathy, towards the university,” Walker wrote. “Although it is not clear to us whether a replacement of some kind is intended, it would be an affront to all who have toiled in the interest of B-CU through their work in the NAA.
Walker said creating a competing alumni organization raises a “salient question” of whether it is “legally appropriate,” and he sought mediation.
NAA President Johnny McCray, a Pompano Beach attorney and 1978 B-CU alum, called the board’s decision “sad.”
“This whole thing is really sad. A sad commentary,” McCray said.
McCray described the move as one of vengeance on the part of Perry.
“We are autonomous. He can’t get rid of us. So instead, a directive was given to the president and the school to not recognize us,” McCray said.
The alumni association had its annual convention in June, and Powell did not attend.
“This is the first time a president at Bethune-Cookman has not appeared at the national convention,” McCray said. Other school officials also pulled out of commitments.
Powell did not respond to a request for an interview.
Even still, McCray said there’s a new energy in the alumni association. More than 150 new members joined and alumni raised $281,500 for the school in the 90-day runup to the convention.
“That has never happened at B-CU before, never in the history of the university, and they won’t even acknowledge it,” McCray said.
Walker’s letter notes several other NAA fundraising achievements, including contributing $973,000 to endowments in the “recent past,” and helping raise $182,000 toward the Mary McLeod Bethune statuary fund, a non-profit community effort that is separate from the university.
A B-CU alumni Facebook page has been abuzz about the university’s intended split-off from the NAA.
Meanwhile, McCray said as NAA chairman he was not invited to speak at the commencement in May. In past years, the alumni association has been allowed to make a pitch to the new graduates to join.
McCray blamed Perry, who he said oversteps his boundaries as board chairman and too often gets involved in the day-to-day operations of B-CU.
Perry declined to respond to McCray’s comments. But he said at a town hall on the Daytona Beach campus in April that McCray has been angling for a seat on the board and “wants to run things.” He called the NAA members who have questioned board actions a “small minority” of “dissidents.” 
The clash of personalities is a continuation of campus controversy — even as the university has made major strides to resolve financial, legal and accreditation-related problems that threatened its very existence.
In 2020, Bethune-Cookman got word that the Legislature had committed to $13 million in new, recurring funding to help keep the school financially sound. Last fall, the school was released from probationary status with its accrediting body. And on June 29, Perry announced a new, $108 million loan that would settle legal entanglements including a 40-year agreement to pay back money the school borrowed, plus a ballooning interest, that in all would have cost $306 million for a dormitory built in 2016. 
The March departure of university President Brent Chrite has also been a source of friction between the NAA and the Board of Trustees. Chrite said he and the board were not “in alignment” on a number of issues. That was one of the concerns NAA members had when they took the vote of no confidence, McCray said.
Several years ago, two alumni voices rose above all others in calling out the dorm deal-gone-wrong: McCray and Robert Delancy, a 1979 B-CU graduate who retired from a career as an IRS investigator, settling in Port St. Lucie.
But the two parted ways, McCray said, when Delancy was serving as NAA president from 2018 to 2020, and McCray — as parliamentarian — questioned some of the things Delancy did and said.
An example McCray cited was Delancy publicly threatening to sue the university. “I told Robert, ‘You don’t have the authority to make those types of statements publicly without board approval.’ … That is the last time I had a conversation with Robert. He stopped answering my calls.”
Last summer, McCray ran against Delancy for the presidency and defeated him.
Delancy would not agree to an interview. But he recently sent The News-Journal a letter, explaining that B-CU “has been bruised, battered and subjected to microscopic scrutiny,” and he acknowledged “internal conflicts,” and offered a pledge.
“I will not do or say anything that will bring any more negative press to Bethune-Cookman University,” Delancy wrote. “It serves no purpose and makes it very difficult for donors and philanthropists to separate fact from fiction and feel secure that (the university) is worthy of their support.”
He added: “I will go on record and state unequivocally that I support the Board of Trustees, including Chairman Belvin Perry, Jr., and applaud what they are doing to rebuild, re-enforce and restructure Dr. Bethune’s Legacy!”
In a Sept. 18 letter to B-CU alumni, supporters and staff, Delancy compared B-CU’s $15 million endowment to other historically black colleges and universities, including Howard University with $712 million, Spelman College with $377 million and Florida A&M University with $96 million.
He called for 10,000 alumni to band together and work to raise the B-CU endowment in order to build a new gymnasium and student center. “Do you really think that the current NAA with its 500 members can raise the required $50 to $80 million?”
Powell, the interim president, offered a bright side in his statement.
“Change can be positive for everyone,” he said. “As a B-CU alum myself, I know we all share the same vision and mission of providing and expanding necessary support for this university and our students. I welcome this new structure and look forward to active engagement from all.”
Cathy Washington, a lifetime NAA member who graduated from B-CU in 1971 and worked at the school as an administrator for nearly 42 years, said she doesn’t condone the NAA’s no-confidence vote in the trustees, and is concerned that too many alumni are basing their views on others’ opinions that aren’t rooted in the facts. 
“The president of the alumni association is only the president of the alumni association. The Board of Trustees tell the president what to do. Why should the alumni association president think he can tell the chairman of the Board of Trustees what to do?”
Washington — who served on the Board of Trustees as a staff representative and alumnus until about 15 years ago — said she’s heard about the plans for a university-run direct-support organization and backs the plan. Other schools, including Florida State University and Daytona State College, follow that model, she said.
“Maybe we should have a parting of the ways and the new association, they would form, if they follow through, would be a foundation that is set up specifically for the raising of funds for B-CU for scholarships,” she said. “Where’s the problem?”
McCray said Wednesday the university has sent the NAA a cease-and-desist letter, requesting the organization no longer use the school’s name in its title and fundraising efforts.
He added that the NAA’s board has approved another name for itself: The Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune National Alumni Association.
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