William J. “Bill” Taggart, 55, the interim president of Morehouse College, has died, the college announced on Wednesday, June 8.
The cause of death was related to an apparent aneurysm, according to multiple news reports. In April, he was named interim president of the highly regarded, all-male historically Black college in Atlanta. The school is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
In a statement, the college said Taggart had devoted himself wholeheartedly to Morehouse for the past two years.
“We are eternally grateful for his loyal support, counsel and the leadership he provided to students, faculty, staff and alumni,” the statement read. “Throughout his tenure, Bill had a positive impact on Morehouse College and the Greater Atlanta business community. He leaves behind a long legacy of compassion, integrity and devotion. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.”
Taggart’s appointment came after John Silvanus Wilson, well-liked by students and alumni, was fired after four years as president following reports that he had a contentious working relationship with some members of the college’s board of trustees.
The media attention led to news that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges, the Morehouse’s accrediting organization, would conduct an investigation.
In a statement announcing the leadership change released on April 7, the board said a presidential search committee was in the process of selecting a permanent new leader to “bring a renewed vision to the college.”
According to his LinkenIn social media profile, Taggart, an Atlanta native, was a 1984 graduate of Howard University with a MBA from Harvard Business School. His professional experience included serving as president and CEO of Atlanta Life Financial Group. He was a member of the NAACP, Urban League and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, in addition to various businesses and civic organizations.
In 2015, he joined the executive leadership team at Morehouse.
Morehouse Alumni Association President Howard Willis, a physician, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was surprised to learn of Taggart’s death because he regularly jogged and seemed to be in good health.
“He was instrumental in getting the faculty, staff and students all on the same page,” Willis said. “I was hopeful we would look at him for sustained leadership.”
Others shared their condolences on social media after learning of Taggart’s sudden death.
— Courtney English (@CourtneyEnglish) June 8, 2017
Prayers and thoughts with the family of President Bill Taggart and the entire Morehouse College family.
— The Petty Professor (@ASouthernJule) June 8, 2017
If it ain't one thing it's another. RIP President William Bill Taggart! It was an honor to be able to receive your words of wisdom at ASW!
— ? (@JayLowe24) June 8, 2017