Patricia Williams-Lessane is leaving CofC's Avery Research Center for Baltimore job

She will be the associate VP for academic affairs at Morgan State University

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Patricia Williams Lessane is the most recent head of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture - RUTA SMITH
  • Ruta Smith
  • Patricia Williams Lessane is the most recent head of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture
Patricia Williams-Lessane, head of the Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture, is taking a new job in Baltimore where she expects to have a more hands-on role in helping students.

On May 1, she will begin serving as assistant vice president for academic affairs at Morgan State University, a historically black public university.

"I'm super excited," she said in an interview with the City Paper. "It’s the same size as the College of Charleston, except it has far more graduate students. For me, it’s like going home."



Williams-Lessane, who moved to Charleston from Chicago, earned her bachelor's degree at Fisk University, an HBCU in Nashville. She completed a master's program at Dartmouth College before earning a Ph.D in anthropology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

At Morgan State, Williams-Lessane will work with David Wilson, the school's president.

"I've known him for over 10 years, and I've watched his career, and he is a beloved college president," she said. "He's respected nationally, not just as an HBCU president, because I think HBCUs are important, but he's respected as a great president nationally."

Friday was Williams-Lassane's last day at CofC's Avery Center. The College plans to launch a nationwide search for a new leader "soon."

"The College hopes to have someone in place by later 2019 or early 2020," said school spokesman Mike Robertson.

The change comes during a transitional period for the liberal arts college. The board of trustees voted to hire Andrew Hsu as the school's 23rd president in November. He starts on May 16.

"We haven’t even met the new president," Williams-Lessane said. "So we don't know what his priorities will be, but I would assume he knows how important, and what a rich asset, Avery is."

Adding to that uncertainty, Avery's offices in a historic building on Bull Street have been closed for over two years to repair HVAC issues and leaks.

"It was really making the collection vulnerable," Williams-Lessane said.

The center's staff hasn't worked in the building for about a year. Upgrades have been hampered by college bureaucracy, bad weather, and the city's Board of Architectural Review.

"When Steve Osborne came in, he authorized everything that needed to be done to get the bids back out and get the process started," she said of the College's current interim president. "Stupid, elitist, classist, racist stuff. [The BAR] care more about what the building looks like versus the things that go in the building."

Robertson says the Avery Center is expected to open again by early summer.

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