LeMoyne-Owen College President Vernell A. Bennett-Fairs has left the Memphis-based HBCU less than a month after ushering the 2023 graduates to the next chapter of their lives.
In a move that surprised many, Dr. Bennett-Fairs tendered her resignation, which has been accepted by the LeMoyne-Owen College (LOC) Board of Trustees.
As LOC transitions, Dr. Christopher Davis will guide Memphis’ only historically black college as interim president. Davis, the associate dean of Memphis Theological Seminary and senior pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church, is the immediate past chair of the LOC Board of Trustees.
Why Bennett-Fairs resigned at this juncture is a question the TSD still was pursuing on deadline. A media release about Bennett-Fairs departure did not address that aspect.
“I’m grateful to the faculty, staff, students, administration and trustees who accomplished much over the past two and a half years,” Bennett-Fairs said in the released statement. “It has been my honor and privilege to work alongside you. I’m excited to see the Magic that will ensue as LOC’s renaissance continues.“
Patricia Covington, who chairs LOC’s Board of Trustees, thanked Dr. Bennett-Fairs for her “service and investment in the College….
“As we work through this transition, our students, community and historic legacy remain our top priorities. We look forward to Dr. Davis’ leadership to continue to push us forward.”
Bennett-Fairs, who previously served as Student Affairs vice-president at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, began her tenure as LOC’s 13th president on Jan. 5, 2021. In a subsequent interview with the TSD, she said her move to Memphis was both the fruition of a dream and the greatest challenge of her life.
“Becoming president here was my full-circle moment,” Bennett-Fairs said. “I went from non-tenure track instructor to president. I had always aspired to be president, but this is the first presidency I ever applied for.”
During her tenure, Bennett-Fairs is credited with the introduction of signature events, including the 807 Day fundraiser and a grassroots effort called Loving Our Community (LOC) Day.