By OSWALD BROWN
WHEN he graduated from Highbury High School (now R M Bailey Senior High) in Nassau in 1973, Sidney McPhee had a deep love for music and his career goal at the time was to be a high school band instructor.
Today Dr McPhee is the tenth president of Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and according to the university’s website he “has presided over one of the most remarkable periods of growth and progress in the institution’s century-plus of service”.
In addition to his fondness for music, the young Sidney McPhee also had a burning desire to obtain a college education, which led to him enrolling in Prairie View A&M University in Texas, from where he received bachelor’s degree (with highest honours, summa cum laude) in 1976.
Having taken that first step on the road to becoming a noted academic, Dr McPhee subsequently received a master’s degree in 1979 from the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, and a doctorate in applied behavioural studies in education from Oklahoma State University. He is also a graduate of the Harvard University Management Development Program and completed professional development programs at St Mary’s University of San Antonio, Texas, and Colorado College in Colorado Springs.
Prior to his arrival at MTSU, Dr McPhee was executive vice chancellor for the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR). In addition, he served as the TBR’s chief academic officer and interim chancellor. Dr McPhee also served in various senior-level administrative capacities at several major universities, including Oklahoma State University, University of Louisville and University of Memphis.
“MTSU is the oldest and largest institution in the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) and the No.1 producer of graduates for the Greater Nashville economy,” the website notes. “It is also the top destination for transfer students in Tennessee, the top destination for adult learners in Tennessee and, since November 2015, is home to the state’s largest academic support center dedicated to veterans and military families.”
According to the website, “McPhee’s presidency, which began in 2001, also coincided with more than $700m in improvements in academic, athletic and campus facilities - either proposed, under construction or completed. MTSU’s $147m `Science Building, a 250,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art teaching and research facility, opened in Fall 2014. Since his arrival, MTSU has been successful in raising admission standards, which resulted in an increase in enrollment of high-ability students. McPhee has overseen the addition of almost 30 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, two colleges (Behavioral and Health Sciences and University College) and 12 institutes and centers.
“McPhee’s ambitious Quest for Student Success, which was launched two years ago, is reshaping MTSU’s approaches to teaching and learning. It has gained national attention for its innovation in improving MTSU’s student retention and graduation rates. It aligns with Gov Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55, which aims to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with post-secondary degrees or certificates. He has also worked to strengthen MTSU’s international undergraduate and graduate student enrollment, expanded its study-abroad and cultural opportunities and developed research collaboration with international partners.”
Dr McPhee was named Outstanding American University President of 2002 by the American Football Foundation. In 2003, he was listed by Nashville Post business magazine as one of Tennessee’s 100 Most Powerful Individuals and, in 2004, he was ranked by Business Tennessee magazine as one of the state’s Top 50 Most Powerful African Americans. He was honoured by the Nashville Business Journal with its Rutherford County Impact Award for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015. He also has been named Omega Citizen of the Year by the Pi Gamma Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity; recognised as a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International; and was inducted into the Hall of Fame for R M Bailey Senior High School, his alma mater in the Bahamas, previously known as Highbury High.
Dr McPhee is married to Elizabeth, and they have two adult children, Seneca and Sidney-Anthony. Born in Mayaguana, Dr McPhee is the son of Catherine Deleveaux McPhee and the late Amos McPhee. His 91-year-old mother lives in Nassau.
Oswald T Brown is the Press, Cultural Affairs and Information Manager with the Embassy of The Bahamas in Washington, DC.