MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- In front of LeMoyne-Owen College's stately antebellum administration building, faculty, students and alumni gather for an announcement many probably didn't want to hear from the school's well-liked and respected president, Johnnie B. Watson.
"The purpose of this press conference is to announce my retirement as president of LeMoyne-Owen College," Watson said.
Watson, the college's 11th president, plans to step down next year from his position.
It's a position he used to increase financial support for the college from the city, county and state and boost morale on campus.
"Thanks to the supportive board of trustees, a dedicated faculty, staff and a student body who truly loves its president. I had an exceptional tenure as president of LeMoyne-Owen College," Watson said.
His Alma mater called on him to provide leadership in 2006 when the school was put on probation and faced financially hard times.
Watson is credited for turning things around much as he did when he led the former Memphis City Schools system and when Rhodes college asked him to head its college of education.
"It's simply my time to retire. I am under no pressure from anybody to retire and the college is fiscally solvent without any outstanding accreditation issues," Watson said.
LeMoyne-Owen got its accreditation back, but once again it's faced with finding its next president to lead the school and pave the way for the future.
Robert Lipscomb is LeMoyne-Owen Board Chairman, "We want to put together a strategic plan that will be the board's plan. What is our plan for LeMoyne-Owen College and pick the right leader that can execute that plan."
As for Johnnie B. Watson, it's about hugs and handshakes today as he's happy about a retirement following a years of community service, "I leave you today rejoicing and I leave you today as the singer Pharrell would say, "Happy, Happy, Happy."