FAMU’s ‘Golden Ages’: Then vs. now

Image courtesy: famuinfo.com

During the presidency of the late Frederick S. Humphries, Florida A&M was transformed in many ways. Former students and faculty often refer to this time from 1985 to 2001as “FAMUs Golden Age.”

Humphries graduated from FAMU in 1957 with a degree in chemistry. Before becoming FAMU’s president he was the president at Tennessee State University.

Humphries was FAMU’s eighth president. His motto – “Excellence with Caring” – is still heard all around campus to this day.

While Humphries reigned as president, he brought a determined attitude to his office, the campus and to the city of Tallahassee. One of his goals as president was to increase student and faculty morale.

On the web page dedicated to FAMU’s history, Humphries is described as a “history maker.”

“Under his leadership, FAMU experienced significant growth and surpassed accomplishments,” according to the webpage.

Enrollment more than doubled during his 16-year tenure. It went from 5,101 students in 1985 to 12,257 students by 2001.

Ceeka Rose Green, who calls herself a “Humphries Era Rattler,” was a student at FAMU during the time Humphries was president.

“Campus life during that time was awesome,” Green said. “There were fewer students at the time so everyone knew everyone, it was truly a FAMUly.”

During that time FAMU wasn’t as developed as it is today. The Set was an actual street instead of a closed off area; dorms like McGuinn and Diamond were thriving with students.

Green said The Set was an open street and during parades, Greek weeks and other celebrations the fun could be seen from her dorm.

Although campus wasn’t packed, Humphries made sure the students on campus were top tier.

“President Humphries made it his goal to recruit as many top African American merit scholars from all across the world, not just the state or country,” Green said. “Classrooms were filled with students who were in the top 5%, 3% or even 1% of their graduating class.”

She knew Humphries personally and described him as a few things, one of them being “the best human being ever.”

“He was good at remembering names and faces. He would yell at you from across the quad to speak and check on you. He was just a great person all around. To know him was to love him,” she said.

Leonard Smith and his wife are both “Humphries Era Rattlers” as well as graduates of FAMU.

The Smiths described the campus during their time as “busy, booming and unapologetically Black.”

“You felt the tradition and advancement converge all at the same time,” he said.

They also mentioned how Humphries influenced the culture of the campus.

“Dr. Humphries brought to the school a sense of pride, innovation and leadership that made FAMU a formidable educational brand across the country; especially in business and sciences,” he added.

While at FAMU, Humphries did a number of things to improve the campus for students and faculty.

In 1997, FAMU was selected as the TIME Magazine-Princeton Review “College of the Year.”

FAMU attracted 657 National Achievement Awards and doctoral degree programs increased from 1 in 1985 to 10 in 2000.

There was also an increase in contracts and grants given to FAMU, going from $8.5 mil to $46 mil between the years of 1985 and 2001.

Even years after his reign, his efforts have gone neither unnoticed nor diminished. Although Humphries is no longer with us [he died this summer] his legacy remains very much alive at FAMU.

Today, led by the quiet but effective leadership of Larry Robinson – who came to FAMU in 1997 when Humphries was president – the campus is back thriving after the unexpected pandemic swept through the world.

According to a recent Rattler Nation nlog post, enrollment for fall 2021 is down 491 students compared to 2020.

However, that has not stopped the school spirit from making its way through campus.The current on-campus freshman class is the largest class FAMU has had in years.

With the opening of a new residence and dining hall, students are eager to live on campus and participate in school activities.

Due to an extremely successful homecoming, FAMU has been the talk of the town and the SWAC athletic conference.

With appearances from world renowned celebrities like Lil Baby, Moneybagg Yo, Will Packer and Kevin Hart, other schools jokingly referred to homecoming as “The Essence Festival.”

As well as having a nearly undefeated season, people can’t help but talk about FAMU football, and how it was the first HBCU to be invited to the NCAA playoffs in decades.

For the past four years, FAMU has been ranked the nation’s No. 1 public HBCU by US News & World Report. The past few years have led FAMU to become one of the most talked about schools in the country, leading some to describe this as another “Golden Age.”