Confessions of a Black Academic

A Memoir


In stock

About the Book

Retired university president Alvin J. Schexnider shares the experiences that shaped his career and the challenges presented by race. About half of his career was spent at white universities. He details how he navigated various challenges in policies and practices and examines how  events of his youth shaped his views on race, including segregation, the execution of a Black man in his hometown, lynching in the South, and the pervasive opposition and violence spawned by the civil rights movement. The second half of his career was spent at historically Black colleges and universities where he felt a sense of commitment.
Schexnider provides a unique lens through which his career evolved from the early days of affirmative action and equal employment opportunity to the current era of diversity, equity and inclusion. The book spotlights the continuing role of race in the recruitment, promotion and retention of Black faculty, and contrasts affirmative action and diversity and argues that diversity is more likely to benefit ethnic groups other than Blacks, based on current trends in higher education. The book concludes with a chapter on the future of historically Black colleges and universities, a sector of higher education that is currently receiving unprecedented attention but is likely fleeting. The author acknowledges the challenges and opportunities HBCUs face and offers strategies to put them on a sustainable path to secure their future.

About the Author(s)

Alvin J. Schexnider is a retired university president living in Chesapeake, Virginia. He led three higher education institutions in a career that spanned more than four decades. He is a board governance consultant whose clients are trustees and presidents of public and private colleges and universities throughout the country. His articles have appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed and Trusteeship.

Bibliographic Details

Alvin J. Schexnider
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 193
Bibliographic Info: 6 photos, notes, index
Copyright Date: 2024
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9337-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5205-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Preface 1
One. 1708 5
Two. Childhood 13
Three. Grambling College 1964–1968 33
Four. Launching a Career 39
Five. Graduate School 49
Six. A Reluctant Academic: 1973–1995 57
Seven. Winston-Salem State University 87
Eight. Norfolk State University, 2002–2007 97
Nine. Thomas Nelson Community College, 2008–2011 105
Ten. Race and the Academy 111
Eleven. The Way Forward 135
Twelve. The Future of Historically Black Colleges and Universities 139
Postscript 169
Chapter Notes 173
Index 177

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Confessions of a Black Academic is a deeply personal and poignant memoir of an African American academician who negotiated segregated Louisiana in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, the decade in which he entered the Vietnam War. Alvin Schexnider has offered a riveting account of his time as a soldier during the emergence of the Civil Rights Movement, and as higher educational opportunities were opening for African Americans at majority white institutions. During his climb up the academic ladder, he experienced successes right along with blatant racial discrimination in a time when many professors of color were seen as ‘affirmative action hires’ and hence not as qualified as their white counterparts. Confessions of a Black Academic in many ways is a blueprint for faculty members of color and how they might navigate their careers in higher education which continues to evolve during the era of the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-related educational changes.”—Christopher A. Brooks, professor of anthropology, Virginia Commonwealth University

• “Noted scholar, popular teacher, outstanding administrator, prominent consultant, Alvin Schexnider provides a spellbinding account of his remarkable career, reminding us that the problem of the 21st century is the problem of race and education. Like DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folk, Schexnider’s “Confessions of a Black Academic is both a poignant memoir and a brilliant academic discourse designed to improve the opportunities for education in a racist society. Though he scrutinizes public and private schools, community colleges, and Ivy League universities, ultimately the emphasis is on Schexnider’s lifelong passion—saving HBCUs.”—Daryl Cumber Dance, professor emerita, Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond

• “Alvin Schexnider offers a compelling account of his 40-year tenure in academia as a professor but mostly from his perch in senior management and top leadership positions, in which he spent the lion’s share of his academic career. Schexnider provides an up-close, first-hand account of the opportunities, challenges and problems, he encountered in higher education as an African American academic. Many African American professionals will be able to identify with Schexnider’s experiences. This book is powerful storytelling but it goes well beyond that. It provides valuable insights for young African American professionals who want to pursue careers in higher education administration and leadership and also implicitly for white higher education leaders and administrators who want to create more welcoming and supportive environments for African American professionals and other minority professionals. Schexnider’s discussion of the changing paradigm in recruiting and retaining blacks in higher education from affirmative action to diversity is insightful and powerful. This trend is occurring in all sectors of work in the United States. Schexnider’s discussion in this area is clearly one of the gems in his book. This book is highly recommended reading for higher education professionals—both those in leadership and management and those who teach and study higher education practices, leadership and policies as a field of study.”—Huey L. Perry, professor emeritus, Southern University