The Saint Augustine’s University community was shocked and saddened when they learned Oct. 15 that Dr. Irving Pressley McPhail, had passed away. Board of Trustees Chairman James Perry confirmed the next day that Dr. McPhail had succumbed to complications from COVID 19.
Dr. McPhail, Saint Augustine’s 12th president, had served in the office for only three months but made a big contribution, according to the statement from the university’s Office of Marketing and Communications announcing his untimely passing.
“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 announcement said. “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.”
The announcement said Dr. Maria A. Lumpkin will serve as Interim President, effective immediately, and that the Board of Trustees would be “working internally to determine its next steps and the future direction of the university.”
Saint Augustine’s students, faculty and staff are struggling to deal with this tragedy. To document the impact that Dr. McPhail had on the campus in his short time here, and the reaction to his sudden passing, Falcon Forum reporters went around campus talking to students. Here is their report.
Lawrence Williams, Senior:
“It’s a tragic death out of nowhere…. 2020 has been a wild year and this continues to add to the wildness. My condolences go out to his family and the SAU family.”
Nilous Hodge, Junior:
“I feel as if it is a tremendous loss to the school. We lost a leader. I am deeply saddened by his passing.”
BriAna Clapp, Junior:
“It was very devastating to hear about his death on social media but it was also very heart-warming to see the support from other universities across the country.”
Todd Smith, Senior:
“It’s sad to hear, for sure. From what I heard about the president he was a good guy. My prayers to his family.
Khalil Baker, Sophomore:
“It was a rainy, sad day and the news was unexpected…I feel for his family and they will get all my prayers.”
Zach Barco, Junior:
“Honestly, I didn’t know him like that, but I’ve heard of all the great things he’s done for the university in such a short time. It’s sad to see anybody pass from the virus that’s affecting all of our loved ones.
James Dickson, Freshman, CIS major:
“When I heard the president died I was really surprised because we just met him and I’ve never heard of an SAU president dying before. He was the last person I expected to pass from the virus because he just recently announced the guidelines of staying safe from COVID-19 last month at convocation.
Geordan Walker, Senior:
I didn’t really know him but it’s still sad to see…It kind of sets the tone for the year. RIP to him.”
— Nia Phillips