Florida A&M University this year enrolled more of the nation's top black high school students than any other school except Harvard, and many of them say the "personal touch" was the reason why. Keasia D. Murray was one of 32 freshmen named National Achievement Scholars who chose Florida A&M (FAMU) despite "generous scholarship offers" from Florida State University, Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Miami.
Miss Murray, who is studying civil engineering, said she decided to come to FAMU in part because of the personality of Frederick Humphries, president of the state's only historically black public university. Humphries is heavily involved in recruiting top students.
"When you have a president of a university come to your hometown and talk to you personally and ask you to come to their school _ that seems to stand a lot stronger in my mind than just a letter from another school," Miss Murray, 17, said.
Humphries said the first time he met Miss Murray he offered her a full scholarship "on the spot."
"We went back down to Jacksonville and pursued her again," he said.
Humphries said if his school of about 8,000 students continues its current pace, it will overtake Harvard in two years. Harvard enrolled 62 National Achievement Scholars this year.
With its latest class, FAMU has about 90 students who, because of their performance on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, were named in the scholarship competition for black students. They all received full scholarships, about half sponsored by corporations and half by the university. About half the students come from Florida.
Humphries said one reason top black students are coming to FAMU is the kind of academic programs and the quality.
"And the second part of it is, I think, that the sensitivity and the caring of our university far exceeds most universities with regard to wanting to see black students succeed," he said.
Isaac Chappell, 18, of Dallas made a perfect score on the mathematics portion of the SAT and an overall score of 1,460; he was offered scholarships by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale. The physics major picked FAMU because he was "really impressed with their personal touch and their dedication to giving black students a good education."