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Dr. Yancy Discusses Shaw's Recovery with the Triangle Tribune

Shaw University Bounces Back

By Sommer Brokaw
On January 31, 2012

Since a tornado tore up Shaw University last spring, everyone from the administration on down has made adjustments. But now things are starting to return to normal.

The storm that hit the oldest historically black college in the South on April 16 reportedly injured no one, but it shortened the semester, peeled off roofs, damaged dorms, broke windows and uprooted trees. Almost all of the buildings' roofs received some repair and 27 buildings suffered roof damage, said Dr. Jeffrey Smith, vice president of student affairs. Six were either fully or partially replaced: Estey Hall, Dimple Newsome Dormitory, Fleming/Kee Dormitory, Willie E. Gary Student Center, Tupper Hall and the gymnasium.

"We've done lots of work on the gym in terms of renovations and restorations as response to the storm," interim President Dorothy Cowser Yancy said. "We're almost ready to open up all of the Willie E. Gary Student Center; the furniture came yesterday."

The tornado tore a hole in the student center's roof, which left students eating out of a temporary cafeteria. Since then, the roof has been repaired, and in December, Shaw celebrated the old cafeteria's reopening.

"Students were able to go to the dining area just before Christmas and move out of the temporary dining facility, where they have been eating out of Styrofoam plates since August," Yancy said. "And students are really excited to be back in a nice, really well-decorated facility."

The storm also peeled the copper roof off Estey Hall, which has since been replaced. Yancy said the repairs will be mostly finished by the end of this month, and then they just need to spruce up the center of the campus. In mid-March, they will host an open house.

Since Yancy returned to Shaw in August, she said she has been pulling "double duty," with having to work on the restoration of the campus while also handling the normal duties of a president. But now that the major repair work is done, she can get back to work.

Yancy said her goals going forward include getting through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation process "with a perfect score," having a balanced budget, graduating this year's class and recruiting a new freshman class.

"We were given an extension by SACS office because of the storm so, instead of being due last September, the compliance report will be due this September, which gave us a year to regroup and do what had to be done," she said. "We're grateful, and we're on schedule."

Yancy returned to Shaw when Irma McClaurin resigned in August. She had held the post from June 2009 until September 2010. During this period, Yancy, who is the former president of Johnson C. Smith in Charlotte, received a $31 million federal loan to restructure Shaw's debt.

Now, she is busy recruiting because enrollment is down around 300 students compared to when she first left. "Because of the damage, I think people thought that Shaw would not be open," she said. "It would be nice if we could get back to where we were when I left."

Yancy agreed to serve "up to two years" while they search for a new president, board Chairman Willie Gary said. But she said she hasn't decided how long she'll stay.

"It depends on what day I wake up," she said. "Each day is a challenge, but it's rewarding."

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