Salute to a transformational HBCU leader

Wesley McClure - President Lane CollegeDr. Wesley McClure will be remembered by alumni, friends and the Jackson TN community as a transformational leader of Lane College. He served as president of Lane – his alma mater – for 21 years. He transformed the campus with new facilities and programs, but most importantly he kept true to his mission of ensuring that students who wanted an education could obtain one – regardless of what others thought. More than this he was my college classmate – an outstanding, straight A student – a brilliant math major,  born and raised in Jackson, TN. He was a student leader with great potential for all to see. His focus on securing civil rights was intense – and he was at the forefront of the civil rights movement for the West Tennessee area. The gains that were made were greatly influenced by his participation as a leader.

Dr. McClure assumed the leadership of Lane College when it was truly struggling. He deployed his intensity once again, making the college’s turn-around his personal commitment. He put students first in the way that he developed the institution. He knew the backgrounds from which the students came, for their background was his background. He came from very humble beginnings during a time of segregation and succeeded in life because of Lane College. He never forgot his past, and wanted to make sure that other young African American men and women who struggle with the legacy of racism and limited access to quality education, poverty, hunger and family challenges would have the ability to succeed. He held out his hand and he opened the doors of Lane College – but he always had high standards and demanded that students live up to their potential. He did not accept mediocrity in students or in himself. He always held the bar high – he was a “hands on president” who demanded a lot of himself and his team.

One thing that I will always admire about Dr. McClure was the slogan he used for Lane College – “The Power of Potential.” This was at the core of  his life work and how he interacted with young people: “If you want a degree I will help you succeed.” He truly believed in the power of potential and encouraged all of us to see – and nurture – the  potential of young people. He was determined to provide students with attainable and affordable education under his leadership. In a time of revolving presidents Dr. McClure was committed to Lane College and to providing leadership – he was one of the few remaining long-term presidents of our HBCUs. He was a role model amongst his peers for his innovation, leadership and commitment.

Rest in peace, Dr. Wesley McClure.

– Melvin B. Shaw, class of ’62

Photo credit: Lane College (


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