With dropped lawsuit, B-CU vs. alumni battle heats up

Alumni of Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) learned on Wednesday, April 26 that the institution dropped two key figures named in a lawsuit seeking $25 million.

Former B-CU President Edison Jackson and former Vice President of Institutional Advancement Hakim Lucas were dropped from the lawsuit in July 2022. The B-CU Board of Trustees, who were named plaintiffs in the civil case, made the decision to drop both men from the lawsuit relating to university dormitories.

While an article ran in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in July 2022, alumni members say the university did not release an official statement about dropping Jackson and Lucas from the lawsuit. 

Some alumni are livid that the decision was handled without a major public announcement.

“I’m completely shocked, but nothing they do shocks me anymore. When the civil lawsuit was originally filed, the university made a real big deal of exacting accountability. Then they quietly drop the lawsuit,” said Percy Williamson, a 1978 alumni and retired banker.

“Where is accountability? Millions of dollars have been lost and they drop the suit.”

Dormitories deal

Initially, the lawsuit was filed in 2018 against Jackson, Lucas, former B-CU Chief Financial Officer Emmanuel Gonsalves and Quantum Equities, LLC, accusing all parties of bribery, corruption and fraud stemming from a deal to build more dormitories. The dorm’s developer, Darnell Dailey, had no previous experience in building dorms.

The project was slated to cost $72 million for a dorm for the Daytona Beach-based HBCU and would accommodate 1,200 students. Later, the administration admitted that the cost could reach as high as $300 million.

Jackson and Lucas denied wrongdoing, and Quantum has countersued for defamation.

Jackson, who is retired, declined to comment, and Lucas became president of Virginia Union University shortly after being suspended by B-CU in 2017. A Virginia Union University spokesperson released a statement in 2022.

“Bethune-Cookman University, Dr. Jackson and Dr. Lucas have mutually agreed to end the pending lawsuit between them and to go their separate ways. None of these parties will have any further comment on the litigation, or about each other, except to wish each other well in their respective future endeavors,’’ the statement read.


Bethune-Cookman University, one of the state’s four HBCUs, is located in Daytona Beach.

An ongoing battle

The university’s lawsuit against Quantum and other individuals continues, but this did not appease alumni.

“Quantum was brought in by the administration and the board of trustees. 

Quantum didn’t initiate the deal, the administration did; they weren’t the mastermind,” Williamson said. “We’re not trying to let anyone off the hook.” Williamson and other alumni are accustomed to fighting the university for transparency and inclusion.

In September 2021, the B-CU board voted to cut off its affiliation with the Bethune-Cookman University National Alumni Association, which had for decades operated as its own nonprofit, separate from the university. The B-CU Board of Trustees filed an injunction in the U.S. District Court demanding that the alumni association cease using the school’s name and colors, as well as the founder’s name.

A group of alumni formed the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune National Alumni Association, Inc.

Johnny McCray, a 1978 B-CU graduate and South Florida attorney, was named president of the alumni association in July 2020.

In response to the cease-and-desist letter from the university, alumni members formed the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune National Alumni Association, Inc. in January 2022.

The university sued the alumni association, alleging trademark infringement. U.S. District Judge Wendy Berger denied B-CU’s motion for a preliminary injunction, and the school appealed in November 2022.

According to McCray, the university’s lawsuit is counter to everything the school’s founder envisioned.

“The founder of our great institution said in her last will and testament, ‘I leave you finally a responsibility to our young people.’ These actions by the board of trustees are not in the best interest of the university, current and future students.”

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune founded the Bethune-Cookman College National Alumni Association in 1938, just 34 years after opening the doors to an institution that would become synonymous with Black educational excellence. And, Bethune founded the alumni association just 15 years after the school had merged with Cookman Institute, became affiliated with the United Methodist Church, became accredited by the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools of the Southern States, and was renamed Bethune-Cookman College.

The future looked bright, as Bethune’s vision of a thriving, long-standing institution with strong alumni support came to fruition. But she surely never envisioned the fissures that now threaten permanent damage to the relationship between the university and its alumni.

“It’s kind of rich that the university and the board of trustees would drop a civil suit against individuals who caused a lot of harm, but find it necessary to sue their own alumni,” Williamson said. “We are following the legacy of Dr. Bethune. We revere Dr. Bethune and want her legacy to be available and viable for the students. There are no bigger stakeholders than the alumni. We’re looking for accountability and stewardship.”

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(1) comment

Retired Prof

Has DeSantis been taking cues from Belvin Perry or is it the other way around?

Both love picking fights but at this point both seem to have bitten off more than they can chew.

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