“Dear sir: In further answer to your very kind letter of a few days ago making inquiry as to the work of our graduates and ex-students, I would say that one of our officers is employed almost continuously in visiting and inspecting the work being done by the men and women that we turn out, and he makes periodical reports to me of what he finds, and I take the liberty of enclosing to you a copy of the last report which he sent in. An analysis of this report will show that 57 cases are covered. Four are engaged wholly in teaching, 27 work wholly at their trades, 26 teach in connection with working at their trades. Yours truly,”-Booker T. Washington, “July 9, 1903”
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
Nothing is more exhilarating-aside from reporting and conveying high rates of alumni giving percentages-for a president of a university to take delight in reporting about his or her alumni than reporting upon their individual successes in their fields of study. Make no mistake, the pride and strength of any institution is its students and its graduates for these individuals represent the core mission and vision-the tradition and trajectory-of any institution of higher learning. Long before the nomenclature of an “outcomes-oriented organization” became commonplace in American higher education, here you find the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University providing data-informed responses to inquiries with respect to his graduates. Note, there is not a single day in the life of a university president where he or she is not requested to provide documentable, evidence-based and outcomes-based responses regarding the successes of their institution. Though somewhat rudimentary in 1903, Mr. Washington, all the same, provided “facts” not “floating tales” in the form of a “periodical report” that he is able to readily provide to any would-be supporter or detractor concerning his work at Tuskegee (Institute) University. Here again, it is an extension of Mr. Washington’s often quoted maxim: “Let examples answer.” (It is simply unwise in any endeavor to offer words without accompanying and supporting works.) In this respect, Mr. Washington did not merely suggest that the sons and daughters of Mother Tuskegee were the very best and the brightest, he demonstrated it.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University