Morse, chair of the university’s board of directors, thanked Frederick in a letter to the campus for his “unremitting and unwavering efforts to lead our university to greater academic excellence, financial strength, and service to our community and country.” “The board of directors wished that he would have chosen to remain in office for a longer period,” he added.
Frederick did not immediately comment on his plans. He is scheduled to deliver the Spring University State Speech Thursday.
Frederick’s nearly decade-long tenure as President Howard was one of successes–from securing record-breaking donations, hiring prominent faculty, and weathering the pandemic–as well as turmoil. His administration has been criticized for the way it has handled issues such as student housing, financial aid, and faculty wages.
Howard University announces historic investment of $785 million in new buildings and renovations
News of Frederick’s departure comes amid changes in leadership across the greater Washington area. The Catholic University recently appointed a new president who will take office in July after John Garvey completed his 12-year term. George Washington University installed an interim president in January following the departure of Thomas LeBlanc. At the University of Maryland Baltimore County, officials appointed its first female president, who would succeed longtime leader Freeman Hrabowski III.
Hampton University also announced a new leader on Wednesday. Its president, William R. Harvey, will retire on June 30, after 44 years at the helm.
Howard officials did not say why Frederick would retire or what he would do after leaving office. Frank Trumbull, a campus spokesman, said the timing of the announcement would allow the university to ensure a smooth transition of power. Frederick’s predecessor, Sydney A. Repo, suddenly in 2013 after months of internal wrangling over the university’s management and financial condition.
“We appreciate that Dr. Frederick has given us plenty of time to find the next great leader for Howard University and we remain committed to bringing key components of Howard’s Strategic Plan forward, along with other initiatives on his agenda,” Morse wrote to the campus. “Over the next two years, Dr. Frederick will continue to give his full attention to furthering our collective interests, advancing impactful initiatives, and supporting the people who make up our growing university community.”
While leading one of the nation’s largest HBCUs, Frederick oversaw significant growth in enrollment—from 9,392 students in the fall of 2017 to more than 12,000 students in the fall of 2021—as well as higher graduation and retention rates. Among the faculty recruits are journalist Nicole Hannah Jones, writer Ta Nhisi Coates and actress Felicia Rashad, dean of the College of Fine Arts.
Morse said Frederick inherited a university in financial turmoil but moved the institution toward financial health. The university has in recent years doubled the number of research grants, and since 2018 has received more than $350 million in charitable support. The university recently revealed plans to spend $785 million on new construction and building renovations, the largest real estate investment in the school’s history.
But there were challenges, too. The faculty union, after years of negotiations with the university, recently threatened to stop work over issues including wages. The university narrowly avoided a strike after reaching a last-minute agreement with the union representing part-time and part-time faculty.
Howard University faculty suspends strike after reaching temporary work agreement
Frederick has also faced criticism for his handling of student protests – most recently in October when students occupied a building on campus for 34 days over housing, student representation and management transparency. During a separate wave of protests over financial aid and housing in 2018, a student emailed Frederick expressing her concerns, and the president replied with “tone and substance” [were] unsuitable.”
Shortly after this email exchange, the faculty board expressed a vote of no confidence.
Frederick is Professor of Surgery at Howard University School of Medicine and a practicing cancer surgeon at Howard University Hospital, according to his undergraduate biography. Frederick is among the highest-paid university leaders in the region, with compensation totaling more than $1.6 million in 2019, according to a salary database compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education.