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The Duke Endowment gives ‘heavenly’ welcome to JCSU president and wife

The Duke Endowment welcomed President Clarence D. Armbrister and his wife, Denise McGregor Armbrister to the greater Charlotte community March 21, 2018, with a show of true Southern hospitality. Over 100 guests came to the private event, including such luminaries as former Mayor Harvey Gantt; Chair Shirley Hughes and members of the JCSU Board of Trustees; and philanthropists Herb and Felicia Walton Gray ’92.

Minor Shaw, chair of The Duke Endowment and president of private investment company Micco LLC, offered opening remarks and Hughes introduced Armbrister, who charmed the crowd with an anecdote about the Three Dog Night song, “Never Been to Spain.”

“I’ve never been to heaven, but I’ve been welcomed in Charlotte,” he joked, paraphrasing the lyrics.

Armbrister spoke briefly on his impressions of Charlotte, noting its gracious culture and tendency to change street names without warning, before moving to the meat of his message—his early observations of JCSU.

“JCSU is important to Charlotte and the region,” he said, “because JCSU changes lives.”

Referencing a Harvard University study that ranked Charlotte last in a list of U.S. metropolitan areas for upward mobility, especially along people of color, Armbrister spoke passionately.

“There is no institution better positioned to change that trajectory than Johnson C. Smith University,” he said. “Student success has to be at the core of everything we do.”

Laying out his plan to achieve that goal, he invoked the Four R’s, a strategy he determined upon assuming leadership at the University: Resources, Recruitment, Retention and Rigor. The University needs more resources, but must also ensure the best use of resources it already has, he maintained. Those resources will enable JCSU to recruit top faculty, staff and students, as well as help retain them with the best programs, equipment and amenities. Finally, those factors will lead to increased rigor in Golden Bull graduates, igniting the flames of sustained success.

“We need them to solve the problems of the future that we haven’t even anticipated yet. I look forward to collaborating with everyone in the room to make it happen,” Armbrister said. “Thank you for my own piece of heaven.”

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