Wright Lassiter Jr. was a quiet, towering leader whose dedication to serving others brought stability and reassurance during critical times in the Dallas community.
Lassiter came to the city in 1983 to take on the presidency of Bishop College as it was spiraling into financial ruin because of previous administrators.
He took the reins of the Dallas County Community College District in 2007 as the system faced booming enrollment but dramatic cuts in state funding.
And he brought spiritual guidance to the congregation of his southern Dallas church after the passing of its founding pastor in 2003.
Lassiter, 85, died Monday from complications related to chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
“He was the strongest example of an individual who clearly cared about others more than himself,” said Wright Lassiter III. He said his father lived by the family adage that “Service was the rent you paid for the space you occupied on earth.”
Wright Lassiter Jr. was a career educator who worked at local colleges for a quarter of a century. He also served on various boards and commissions, including as chairman of the African American Museum of Dallas and on the National Advisory Council to the National Endowment for the Humanities.
He wanted to not only expand access for minority students who were often underrepresented but for them to also see more leaders who reflected their communities, friends and colleagues said. He was known for mentoring young educators nationwide, encouraging several to set their sights on becoming college presidents, too.
Born in Mississippi, the 6-foot-5 Lassiter earned his bachelor’s degree at Alcorn State University, his master’s at Indiana University and his doctorate at Auburn University. He worked at various institutions across the country including the historically black schools of the Tuskegee Institute and Morgan State University.
In the early 1980s, Bishop College was in utter turmoil, millions of dollars in debt and cut off from federal funding amid allegations that the school’s former leaders misused the college’s money.
Lassiter tried to get that historically black college back on track when he became its president. He negotiated settlements on debts and boosted fundraising.
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Source: Dallas Morning News