The peaceful transition of power … that most noble goal of civilized society has been achieved at Nashville’s Fisk University. Frank L. Sims has retired from the Interim Presidency at Fisk University, effective June 30, 2017, and the University family gave a reception in his honor. The event was held in the Appleton Room of historic Jubilee Hall on the Fisk campus on Wednesday, June 21. Uniquely, he was lauded by his successor, Dr. Kevin D. Rome, who takes over effective July 1, and dozens of Fisk faculty, administrators, students and friends of the 150-year-old institution. Sims will remain on the Fisk Board of Trustees, where he was when he was chosen to lead Fisk in 2015.
Phenomenal jazz began the program, provided by this summer’s Fisk Jazz Ensemble: Philip Autry, piano; Anisha Mittal, flute; Gary Nash, clarinet; and Thomas Spann, drums; leading off with “Equinox” by John Coltrane. Rev. Jason Curry, Dean of Fisk Chapel, gave the Invocation, and Master of ceremonies Dr. Bryan Kent Wallace kept the lengthy but diverse program moving.
Barbara Landers Bowles, Chairperson of the Fisk Board of Trustees, gave a Welcome to the attendees, also saying “I would like to congratulate Frank because he has made Fisk better.” Fisk Board Vice-President Patricia Meadows remembered “the smiles on the faces of the board members when Frank Sims accepted” the offer to become interim president.
Crystal Brooks, Miss Fisk 2017-18 sang two beautiful musical selections, accompanied by Alain Dumas on piano, between which she said of Sims, “You have so gracefully led this university.”
Sharon Hurt, Metro Council member-at-large, presented Sims with a proclamation from the Metro Council, amplified by 19th District Metro Councilman Freddie O’Connell, who also praised Sims.
Harold M. Love, Jr., State Representative and Pastor of Lee Chapel AME Church, shared that he always supports and helps Fisk when he can; Fisk gave his father his first job, and Fisk will always have that special place in his heart. Love spoke to the historic role and responsibility Fisk students undertook as the Jubilee Singers saved their school and raised funds for permanent buildings in the 1870’s.
John Inman of Thompson Hospitality and William Smith of Facilities spoke to Sims’ inspirational leadership. Tonya Torres, Fisk SGA President 2017-18, presented a plaque on behalf of the student body. Institutional Advancement VP Jens Fredriksen praised Sims as “a man who takes the time to distinctly listen to anyone who talks to him.” Dr. Reavis Mitchell and Billye Sanders spoke, and Torrin Brown sang.
Sims humbly thanked everyone who attended and pointed out those who helped along the way in leading the institution, and for this event, including his wife, his sons, special friends and a nephew, the “3 Amigos” who coordinated the event — Sherri Rucker, Carolyn Joy, and Cheronda Smith.
In conclusion, Sims said, “We are only as good as the students we recruit and the faculty we have on hand to teach them.”