Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Howard’s credit rating in September, saying that the university’s revenues are under significant pressure and that its management is in jeopardy of falling behind on a cost-containment plan.
There has been administrative flux under Ribeau. As of this week, six of the 13 academic deans listed on a university Web site are interim appointees. The chief financial officer, independent consultant Robert M. Tarola, was retained through a month-to-month contract in 2010, an unusual arrangement in higher education.
Ribeau is closely linked with board Chairman Addison Barry Rand.
A few weeks after he was named president, it was revealed that Ribeau and Rand shared a connection: Rand had once been married to Ribeau’s sister, a marriage that ended many years before.
Rand, chief executive of AARP and chairman of Howard’s board since 2006, said he did not bring Ribeau forward as a candidate and recused himself from the board vote to hire him. Rand recalled in July that he had fallen out of touch with Ribeau after they were no longer brothers-in-law. “I didn’t even know he was a college president,” Rand told The Washington Post. Ribeau said Rand’s account squared with his own recollection.
The co-chairmen of the presidential search committee, former secretary of state and retired Gen. Colin L. Powell and businessman Richard Parsons, wrote in June 2008 that Rand had disclosed the connection to the committee and that he participated in deliberations at their request. Ribeau was chosen based on “his superb qualifications,” Powell and Parsons wrote.
Ribeau frequently proclaims his Christian beliefs. A university Web page notes that on Sunday mornings he gives short talks, called “Words of Faith,” on Howard’s WHUR-FM radio station. At the event Friday, Ribeau urged students to look inside themselves for “the God that you know” to find strength in difficult times.
“The time that you need the most to look at the inside is when the storm clouds are the greatest,” Ribeau said. “Your presence today at this convocation says that there are a lot of believers right here in this room, and believers in Howard University.”