As Florida A&M seniors prepare to walk across the stage on Saturday, one official will also be leaving ‘the Hill’ for the last time.
Vice President of Students Affairs Roland Gaines is retiring for the third time. Twice before, he has tried to retire, but “this time, it’s permanent,” he said.
“Each time I tried to retire, something has come up and I love challenges. Each time, there was a challenge. This time, no,” Gaines said. “I think I’m entitled after 42 years in higher education. I think I’m entitled to chill and enjoy myself with whatever life I have left.”
Gaines’ tenure at FAMU is a laundry list of interim, associate and supervisory positions.
One could almost call the university his second home as he is an alumnus that earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree.
“I love FAMU. If you cut me, I’ll bleed orange and green,” Gaines said.
Working for 42 years in higher education, 36 of them being at FAMU, Gaines decided to plan his retirement after his 62-year-old birthday in February.
“The more I thought about it, I said its about time for me to do something and what I want to do its travel and hopefully I’ll be happy doing that,” Gaines said.
Dean of students Henry Kirby has known Gaines for his entire 31 years at FAMU and said that out of the several vice presidents he’s worked with, Gaines was at the top.
“He’s ready to crank up that RV and put his new truck behind it and go do some site seeing and vacationing,” Kirby said. “I’m very happy for him but I hate to see him go.”
Gaines’ work history with FAMU started at Foote-Hilyer as an assistant in the registrar’s office and from his record, it seems like he has never left the administration building.
Officially he started in 1968 in the registrar’s office, but in fact, when he was a student in 1965 he worked as a student assistant in the registrar’s office. In 1970, he was promoted to supervisor of records and registration. Later on became associate registrar and then registrar in 1990, Gaines said.
In 1997, he became interim associate vice president for student affairs, but wanted to learn more about the financial aid process.
Gaines asked then President Frederick Humphries to also appoint him as interim director of financial aid so he could learn the area.
“Financial aid is a very important office in the life of an HBCU because of the number of student who need that assistance and then the amount of money that comes to the university,” he said. “I just wanted to learn that process and I could not have learned that without sort of touching it pretty closely.”
Director of Student Activities Saundra Inge trained Gaines in the financial aid office and said his work ethic is unmatched.
“He never left a day’s work undone,” Inge said. “That’s probably why he needs rest now.”
Always seeming to be on a fast track, Gaines later applied for the associate vice president for student affairs position and after a national search, he got the job.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘why didn’t you apply for the vice presidency?'” Gaines said. “I just thought that was a little over the top since I had already been appointed as interim vice president so I stopped right there.”
Gaines served as associate vice president until august 2001, when he followed James Ammons to North Carolina Central University. Ammons, FAMU provost before he was elected chancellor at NCCU, asked Gaines to help with the enrollment management.
“Within a year, I had been promoted to interim vice chancellor and vice chancellor for student affairs and came back here in July,” said Gaines, who returned to FAMU in 2007 after Ammons had been appointed president.
Gaines’ office says a lot about his dedication to FAMU and his work ethic.
Walking into Gaines office, some may be surprised at how organized it is. Gaines’ desk uncluttered; a visitor could see the shine at the top of the cherry wood desk.
“I’m not use to chilling, so when I take a vacation, that’s less than a week for me. I’m here in the office most nights until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. and I’ve gotten better,” Gaines said. “I try to get out of here no later than 8 p.m., but even then, I’m taking work with me and I put stuff over there in the corner so I don’t get it mixed up with stuff on my desk,” he said while pointing to a small corner in his office.
Several awards are pinned up in his office; achievement awards about anything that Gaines has helped with. Until June 30 hits, he isn’t slowing down.
“I wanted to give the president adequate time to do a search and bring someone in before school starts. Ideally, July would be great to bring that person in to get them orientated to the campus and programs,” Gaines said.
The office does a lot of planning and execution during the summer so Gaines will work until June 30. His plan is to make sure the staff is ready for the next school year and the incoming vice president of student affairs and “then it will be up to that person to execute change, massage as he or she feel necessary,” he said.
The bar has been set, Kirby said.
“He has an old school work ethic. Sun up, sun down and beyond. He’s given numerous and numerous of hours on the job and when you come up from that old school-ness, that’s just ingrained in you,” Kirby said. The person who succeeds Gaines has to do more than just take over his office, Kirby added. “He or she has large shoes to fill.”