Dr. Oscar Lewis Prater
In 1990, Oscar Lewis Prater was selected as the sixth president of FVSC. Prater’s administration would be a momentous decade in the history of the institution. Prater came to Fort Valley from Hampton University where he had served as vice president. A native Alabamian, he held a Bachelor’s in Mathematics from Talladega College, a Master of Arts from Hampton University and a Master of Science and doctorate in education from the College of William and Mary. His teaching experience included tenures at Rappahannock Community College and the public schools of Williamsburg, Va. Among scholarly credentials, he was a contributing author of The Status of Blacks in Higher Education (1989). Prater clearly continued FVSC’s tradition of well-qualified leadership.
President Prater’s administration began on a high note – FVSC’s computer science program was initiated with Title III funding and quickly drew national attention and praise. Then in May of 1993 the School of Education, Graduate Programs and External Degrees met the new and more stringent standards of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and was accredited by that agency. The next year the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia authorized FVSC to award the Education Specialist Degree with a major in Guidance and Counseling. Also in 1994-95, the school embarked on its centennial celebration, and its enrollment passed 2,900. To crown these years, a new computer technology and mathematics building opened, and FVSC was advanced to a Level IV School by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. This designation meant that the school could offer specialist-level degrees, in addition to master’s degrees at the graduate level.
The most momentous change of the Prater Administration came on June 12, 1996. After several years of campaigning, the institution was granted university status by the USG BOR. The new name became the Fort Valley State University, a State and Land Grant University. An opening convocation to display the new University seal and a new access road named “University Boulevard” took place on Oct. 1, 1996. This status change brought a new emphasis on scholarship in both faculty and students. FVSU began to assert regional and national leadership in a number of academic arenas. The Land Grant mission also continued to expand as indicated by the opening of the Meat Technology Center as part of the College of Agriculture in 1998.
In 2001, Prater, saddened by the loss of his wife Jacqueline several years before, retired from the presidency of FVSU. He later became president of his alma mater, Talladega College.