Three months after his appointment as Saint Augustine’s University’s permanent president, Irving P. McPhail has died of complications related to COVID-19.
University officials announced his death late yesterday evening but did not disclose the cause of death, which was confirmed by three sources within the university.
“In the short time he was the University’s Chief Executive Officer, he made a memorable and positive impact in moving the University in the direction of being a “Learning Centered” campus. The Saint Augustine’s University community deeply mourns the loss of President McPhail and we wish to extend to his wife, Dr. Christine McPhail; his children Dr. Kamilah McKissick and Mr. Ralph Bessard; family and friends left to cherish his memory our deepest condolences and prayers.
Former interim president Maria Lumpkin, who served as interim president from March through July of this year, will serve in the temporary position again, effective immediately.
McPhail was the fourth person to serve as SAU president since 2019, following former president Everett Ward and former interim presidents Gaddis Faulcon and Lumpkin.
It is not the time to resurface the conversation on SAU’s leadership fiascos, board corruption, and incompetence. Still, it is the exact right time to suggest that stability becomes the priority of the institution.
Pandemic, financial issues, lawsuits, accreditation inquiries, and mistrust are hanging over the institution. McPhail was an attempt by a fractured board to bring calm, and his death has only wrought more confusion.
By all appearances, Lumpkin was originally tapped to be the permanent choice to lead her alma mater before internal politics changed the focus. The board should revisit those politics and her candidacy before more intentional and accidental instability brings about irrevocable havoc on an HBCU community that deserves far better than this.