By: Jazmine Runyon
The Florida A&M University (FAMU) Meek-Eaton Black Archives has created a memorial exhibit to celebrate former President Frederick S. Humphries’, Sr., Ph.D. tenure.
Using items from the Fred Humphries Collection, the exhibit highlights aspects of Humphries’ presidency – his academic regalia, memorabilia of the FAMU centennial celebration and the College of the Year celebration.
The exhibit features magazine covers and newspaper front pages from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel when Humphries was named Floridian of the Year in 1998 – which includes a photo of Humphries with Nelson Mandela; white construction helmets from groundbreaking celebrations; Humphries’ historic brown leather swivel chair; portraits of Humphries and a family portrait of Humphries, wife, Antoinette, and three children, Frederick Jr., Tanya and Laurence.
Curator Murrell Dawson, Ph.D., said the exhibit provides just, “sneak peek”, a snapshot of Humphries’ tenure on the Tallahassee campus.
“It offers just a glimpse of his time here at FAMU,” Dawson said. “The key is that the exhibit cannot capture the full essence of the Humphries era.”
Dawson has seen the exhibit “take on a life of its own.” Visitors to the archives have been adding items such programs, video tapes, and pictures.
“It’s a living display,” she said. “It changes every day. A lot of people come and see it and say, ‘I’ve got something, can you add this to it.’”
Humphries served as FAMU president from 1985 to 2001, a tenure described as “the golden age” for the University. He is credited with the re-establishment of the FAMU College of Law, which had been transferred to Florida State University in 1968 when he was a chemistry professor at his alma mater.
Humphries also created the Life Gets Better Scholarship program that helped him recruit some of the brightest young scholars across America. He established the FAMU Graduate Feeder Program, which laid the foundation for FAMU to become a top producer of graduates who would go on to earn Ph.D.’s.
Before taking the helm at FAMU in 1985, Humphries was president of Tennessee State University (TSU) for 11 years.
Under Humphries’ leadership, FAMU’s enrollment more than doubled, while simultaneously raising academic standards. He increased the number of National Achievement Scholars at the school, ranking first in the nation three times, out recruiting Harvard and Stanford. He transformed FAMU into the nation’s number one producer of African Americans with baccalaureate degrees and third in the nation as the baccalaureate institution of origin for African American doctoral degree recipients.
More than 42 new programs were implemented in the 16 years Humphries occupied the president’s office. His crowning achievement was FAMU’s selection as the first TIME Magazine/Princeton Review “College of the Year” in 1997.
Humphries died in Orlando, Fla., on June 24, 2021. He was 85.
The Black Archives is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. The exhibit will remain up for the duration of the summer, Dawson said.