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Incoming president Dwaun Warmack announced at Harris-Stowe State University

Dwaun J. Warmack, incoming president of Harris-Stowe State University, speaks to reporters during his introduction on campus on Thursday, April 24, 2014. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — Dwaun Warmack, president of Harris-Stowe State University, is leaving after five years to take the same position at Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C.

Claflin is the oldest historically black college or university in South Carolina.

The search for a new Harris-Stowe president will begin immediately, according to Ronald Norwood, chairman of the Board of Regents. Provost Dwyane Smith will serve as interim president.

During Warmack’s tenure, enrollment grew to more than 1,700 undergraduate students. Applications increased from 667 in 2013 to more than 6,000 in 2018. The school also added new majors in communications, psychology and history to bring its total to more than 50.

“This was a difficult decision for me. Within the last five years, we have done some transformational work at HSSU, which has been recognized nationally,” Warmack said in a statement. “There is something special about the spirit found at this University. It is intense, real, sincere, authentic — and I have been proud to be a part of HSSU’s rich history.”

The 162-year-old school in midtown St. Louis was created in a merger of the all-white Harris Teachers College and the all-black Stowe Teachers College following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education that mandated public school integration.

One of Warmack’s top priorities was adding postgraduate degree programs, allowed through a 2015 law adopted by the Missouri Legislature to change the school’s designation from strictly a teachers’ college. Harris-Stowe offers graduate degrees through partnerships with Washington University for occupational therapy and Kansas City University School of Medicine and Biosciences for science.

Warmack’s tenure was also marked by challenges including low graduation and freshman retention rates, discrimination lawsuits and failures to comply with federal standards on crime reporting.

Warmack is the fourth leader to depart from the top post at local universities this spring, following Mark Wrighton at Washington University, Tom George at University of Missouri-St. Louis and Michael Shonrock of Lindenwood University. James Dennis of McKendree University in Lebanon also has announced his retirement, after the 2019-2020 school year.

Blythe Bernhard is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.