Tobin will lead S.C. State board

Walter Tobin graduated from S.C. State in 1963.

After three rounds of voting, South Carolina State University’s Board of Trustees has elected Walter Tobin as its chairman.

Tobin beat board member Pat Lott for the board’s top post Wednesday on a 6-4 vote.

Board members voting for Tobin were Jackie Epps, Gail Joyner-Fleming, Dennis Nielsen, Tobin, Robert Waldrep and Maurice Washington. Board members voting for Lott were Linda Edwards-Duncan, Anthony Grant, Lott and Robert Nance.

John Corbitt abstained. Jonathan Pinson was not present when the vote was taken.

Tobin, who lives in Columbia, is a retired superintendent of Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5. He also served as interim superintendent of several other school districts.

He’s a member of S.C. State’s Class of 1963 and does marketing and consulting work.

Tobin said he plans to be transparent and follow the state’s Freedom of Information law.

The university’s board in the past has withheld public information.

“You’re always at an advantage to be upfront and do what the law requires,” Tobin said.

He also said the board would quickly begin the search for a permanent president for the institution.

George Cooper, its former president, voluntarily stepped down in March amid an unspecified and ongoing criminal investigation at the university.

Cynthia Warrick is serving as interim president. Tobin said Warrick is welcome to apply for the permanent post.

Currently, board members and members of the school’s Faculty Senate are working on a document outlining the search process, Tobin said. The board’s executive committee will serve as the search committee, he said.

The committee will seek input from many groups with campus connections, he said. But the board ultimately will decide who will serve as the school’s next president.

The board’s vote brings to a close a dispute over who was the leader of the governing body of the Orangeburg school, which is the state’s only historically black public university.

At the board’s Sept. 27 meeting, Tobin won in a three-way race for chairman. Tobin received five votes, Lott received four and Corbitt received two.

Tobin was declared the winner and was handed the gavel, even though some members said the vote violated the board’s bylaws because Tobin did not receive the votes of the majority of board members.

The six board members who did not vote for Tobin later called for another vote on Oct. 17. Lott won the chairman’s seat in that election on a 6-0 vote. The five members who supported Tobin did not attend the meeting.

Several board members said later that that election also was not legal because members were not given a five-day notice before it was held.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.

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