Temple University Trustee Mitchell Morgan will assume the role as chairman of the Board of Trustees in August 2019. He will succeed Chairman Patrick O’Connor, who will have served as chairman for a decade when he steps down.
Morgan will inherit a university that, under O’Connor, has seen growth in its student population, capital projects and endowment.
On Monday, Morgan spoke with The Temple News to discuss his goals when he assumes the highest role at the university, which include resolving the Fox School of Business rankings scandal, creating capital projects, improving community relations and getting alumni to invest in Temple.
The thing that prohibits universities from growing the most is a distraction, and Temple has a major one, he said.
“I want to make sure that we get on top of those distractions,” he added.
One of those distractions? The Fox School of Business’ misreporting and data falsification scandal that rocked the university this summer. Temple is under investigation by several state and federal institutions and is being sued by several students.
The scandal, which uncovered years of misreported data to rankings agencies, led to the firing of former Fox Dean Moshe Porat.
Morgan said resolving this issue is one of his top priorities.
“It’s hard to do some of the good things when you have some negatives over your head,” he added. “But once we get those negatives resolved, I think we will be full speed ahead.”
By trade, Morgan has a strong real-estate background. He’s the founder and CEO of Morgan Properties, an apartment management and investment firm in King of Prussia, Pa. The company is the 25th largest apartment owner in the country.
He and his wife Hilarie are the namesake of the university housing complex Morgan Hall, which opened in 2013, and he’s served as the chairman of the Board’s facilities committee.
“I am real-estate sensitive,” he said. “When you look at other great universities, they have…tremendous development in both the private sector and the public sector.”
The university has several capital projects in the works, like the Charles Library, which is expected to open to students and faculty in Fall 2019.
The proposal for Temple’s controversial on-campus stadium is currently delayed, pending approval from various city agencies. Morgan said although he would like to see a stadium, the university will, “survive either way.”
“It would be great to have an on-campus stadium,” he added. “But if it’s not in the cards, then we will find another place to play football, but it’s out of our control.”
The university needs to provide more housing along Broad Street, Morgan said on Monday, adding that there are plans to do so.
“We need to get some of the kids out of the neighborhoods because the neighbors are never happy with the kids in the neighborhoods,” he added. In addition to building up, Morgan also envisions a university with more green space to improve student life.
Temple’s relationship with the surrounding North Philadelphia community is a strained one. Community residents take issue with trash, excessive partying, among others from students living in off-campus apartments near Main Campus.
“One of the things we have not done a good job at is with the community,” Morgan said.
This relationship has come under more scrutiny as the university began exploring the idea of an on-campus stadium and has since taken more concrete steps to build the facility. Residents have shut down town halls about the stadium and protested Board meetings.
“We want them to not look at us…as the enemy, but look at us as their neighbor and friend,” he said. “You do that by getting way more involved in the community.”
As chairman, Morgan wants to have a stronger presence in the community by attending community events and visiting nearby churches, among other things.
IMPROVING ENDOWMENT, FOSTERING ENTHUSIASM
Morgan is a 1976 accounting and a 1980 Beasley School of Law alumnus. After he left the university, he said he had not stepped foot on Main Campus in nearly two decades.
He knows this is the experience for many graduates, but he wants to change that as chairman.
“I’m a little jealous when you see the Penn State’s and the University of Pittsburgh’s, and their [alumni’s]…enthusiasm,” he said.
Morgan, who will be the only chairman of the Board to be a graduate from Temple, said, “It’s important for me to figure out how to get some of the 300,000 past alum back to Temple to get more involved in Temple.”
Temple has the second-smallest endowment among Pennsylvania’s state-related universities.
In 2017, Pitt’s endowment reached $3.97 billion. Penn State’s reached $2.67 billion, and in the same year, Temple’s endowment was only $620 million.
For Morgan, this comparison is “terrible,” but he said, “the way you improve your endowment is to get people to come back and to feel good about Temple University.”
Morgan said he wants to take a more “grassroots” approach to the position. He wants to be accessible to the community, students and faculty.
“I don’t want to just sit in a room with 30 trustees and decide what’s right or wrong for Temple,” he said. “We need to start a grassroots campaign and talk to the neighbors, the students, the professors, and not just talk, but listen.”
With this style, he said he hopes will fully understand what students want from the Board.
“Mitch is a Temple story,” said Aron Cowen, the former 2016-17 Temple Student Government president. “The fact that a Philly kid can work his way through Temple, and some years later become chair of the board is really a testament to the mission of Temple.”
Gillian McGoldrick contributed reporting.