James C. Renick, who as George Mason University vice provost in the early 1990s was the university’s first senior Black academic administrator and an early driving force behind the university’s mission of access, died Sunday of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to the Greensboro News & Record. He was 72.
Renick, promoted from associate provost to Mason vice provost for academic initiatives and external affairs in 1993, directed the university’s Early Identification Program from 1989-91, a community outreach initiative that continues to provide opportunities for students to gain access to higher education.
“Back in those days, Mason’s academic leadership was not very diverse,” said James Finkelstein, professor emeritus of public policy in the Schar School of Policy and Government. “Jim would always say that diversity is just good business. The more an organization looks like those it serves, the more successful it will be. Not only did he bring his own diversity as a Black man, he strove to promote diversity. Jim made a difference at Mason, even though he was only here for a short time.”
Renick went on to serve as chancellor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and North Carolina A&T State University.
“Jim had an enormous amount of charisma, and he was incredibly smart,” Finkelstein said. “It was clear that he was going to run a university – and he ran two.”
In more than four decades in higher education, Renick also served as senior vice president for programs and research at the American Council on Education and as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Jackson State University in Mississippi.
Renick was a founding member of the Millennium Leadership Initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, a program intended to diversify university leadership. His honors included the American Association of Higher Education Black Caucus’ Exemplary Award for Public Service.
Prior to Mason, Renick served in various teaching and administrative roles at the University of West Florida and the University of South Florida.
Renick graduated from Central State University in Ohio in 1970. He earned a master’s degree in social work from Kansas University and a PhD in government/public administration from Florida State University.