Saint Augustine’s University President Succumbs to the COVID-19 Virus

Irving Pressley McPhail, the twelfth president of Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, North Carolina, died on October 14 from complications relating to the COVID-19 virus. He had taken office as president of the university in July of this year.

Dr. McPhail was the founder and chief strategy officer at the McPhail Group. A senior executive in higher education, urban public-school administration, and the nonprofit sector, Dr. McPhail was previously the sixth president and CEO at the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, founding chancellor at the Community College of Baltimore County, president of St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, and president of Lemoyne-Owen College in Memphis. He also served as university provost at Pace University in New York, vice president and dean of academic affairs at Delaware State University, and chief operating officer at the Baltimore City Public Schools.

Raised in Harlem, Dr. McPhail was educated in New York City public schools and is a graduate of the renowned Stuyvesant High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in rural sociology at Cornell University and a master’s degree in reading at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He earned a doctorate in reading/language arts at the University of Pennsylvania.

In a statement, the university’s board of trustees said that “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.”

Maria A. Lumpkin will serve as interim president of Saint Augustine’s University. She served as interim president for several months earlier this year before Dr. McPhail took office.

In October 2019, Dr. Lumpkin was named chief operating officer at Saint Augustine’s University. Previously, she served as the special assistant to the president, and as the inaugural executive director of student retention and the center for scholar communities at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. Earlier, Dr. Lumpkin served in leadership roles in two of the largest university systems in the nation — the University System of Georgia and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

A native of Columbia, South Carolina, Dr. Lumpkin holds a bachelor’s degree from Saint Augustine’s Univerity. She earned a master’s degree in urban studies from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy from Clark Atlanta University.

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  1. So sorry to hear that Dr. McPhail has transitioned due to Covid19. I remember the many wonderful International Reading Association conferences where Irving was such a strong presence in that almost all-white organization during that time. I so appreciated his leadership and role in opening up that organization for African American reading specialists, literacy professionals, and Black teachers and administrators. My condolences to his family, colleagues, and friends during this season of loss.

  2. I knew Dr. McPhail when he was at St. Louis Community College. He was an impressive, dynamic, progressive, and charismatic individual. I offer my condolences to his wife and family.

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