Horace Judson left Grambling State University with more accomplishments than friends.
As president, he oversaw vast improvements to the physical plant and campus infrastructure and avoided the financial disasters and much of the administrative chaos that had plagued some of his predecessors. Academics improved.
He also served the full five years he had pledged to the University of Louisiana System board when it hired him in 2004. There was no discernible effort to oust him from above; he appeared to retain the full respect of ULS System leaders Sally Clausen and her replacement, Randy Moffett, throughout his tenure. J
udson felt little love at or around GSU, though, despite his achievements. There, his taciturn demeanor and seemingly chilly nature left many faculty, students and community members flat cold. In and around rural Grambling, people have come to expect more personal involvement with their president. In some instances, they expect some sense of control that they should not have.
Judson’s capacity for making difficult but necessary administrative decisions created uproars as well. Decisions to lay off some longtime campus job holders created contentious situations for Judson with both some alumni and with town leaders, although the dismissals did not appear to adversely affect running the campus. As early as January 2006, town leaders and outspoken alumni were calling for Judson’s ouster.
Judson’s relationships with local, vocal leaders never appeared to be warm and were oftentimes overtly hostile. While his critics often charged Judson ignored GSU traditions, money also appeared to be a factor. Judson rightfully wrested control of funds surrounding the annual Bayou Classic football game away from one alumni group. The campus and town quarrelled over property taxes and fees the town thought it was owed. GSU grew and improved through it all.
ULS leaders’ insights suggest the numbers favor the case for lauding Judson’s administration. The campus’ accreditation outlook brightened. Buildings were renovated or constructed. Housing improved. Enrollment stabilized or grew. Credentials of entering students were better.
At his installation in 2005, Clausen said GSU needed someone with strong leadership, communication skills, business savvy and intangibles. Judson never showed the communication skills that Clausen promised, but he appeared to deliver a lot to Grambling nonetheless.
Ironic was that Judson, who seemed to build walls around himself on campus, was erecting a high-priced fence around the president’s residence as he was leaving. There were security concerns, campus officials said.
In that regard, Judson knew when to leave. Citing family reasons, he ended his presidency Saturday.
Grambling State and all who revere the campus must work for a smooth transition to the next administration. Five years from now, the GSU family may justly evaluate Judson’s years as important and productive. They may see his contributions to be of lasting value.
The editorials in this column represent the opinions of The News-Star’s editorial board, composed of President and Publisher David B. Petty, Executive Editor Kathy Spurlock, Managing Editor Ken Stickney, community representatives Gretchen Dean, Anthony Killian and Jake Metzger and newsroom representative Margaret Croft.