HBCU News

The Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2020

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates.

The dynamics of higher education in America today are driving the demand for a new set of skills and capabilities for tomorrow’s leaders. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) provide quality education to low-income, first-generation, and academically underprepared students. Those institutions of such also serve a diverse population while maintaining the role as the backbone of educational institutions for more than 140-year history.

As President and CEO, Founder at the HBCU Campaign Fund, a non-profit that advocates for HBCUs and MSIs, leadership plays a substantial role in the management of the day-to-day operations of an institution. This third select group of individuals has proven their responsibilities for shaking policies, changing perspectives and making decisions that affect millions of individuals in the higher education sector and the daily needs of an HBCU or Minority-Serving Institution.

Below, HCF has compiled a list of ten chancellors and presidents that currently serve an HBCU or MSI who is a dominant and influential leader that presently displays the following responsibilities in the progress of moving their institutions forward.

President Zaldwaynaka Scott

10. Zaldwaynaka Scott was unanimously voted by the Board of Trustees’ to serve as the 12th permanent president of Chicago State University and assumed the role on July 1, 2018. Under her leadership, CSU has a renewed focus on growing student enrollment, building the school’s regional and national reputation for scholarship and academic research, improving the resources and opportunities available to the student body, and increasing alumni and community engagement.

Prior to her current role, President Scott spent more than 16 years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois where she served as Chief of the General Crimes Section. She also served as Illinois’ first Executive Inspector General for the Agencies of the Governor and Public Universities. President Scott has taught at some of the nation’s most competitive law schools, including Northwestern University School of Law, The University of Chicago Law School and John Marshall Law School. She also served on the Board of Visitors at Indiana University Maurer School of Law and was the Board’s elected Vice President of the Chicago State Board of Trustees from 2010-13.

President Scott’s peers rank her among the nation’s top lawyers, resulting in her inclusion in Chambers and Partners USA, U.S. News Best Lawyers, Women in Business Law Guide, The Best Lawyers in America, Lending Lawyers 2015, Top 10 Women in Criminal Defense and Illinois Super Lawyers.

President Scott holds a law degree from Indiana University Maurer School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Dr. Patricia G. Sims

9. Dr. Patricia G. Sims was named as the fourth president of J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College in Huntsville, Alabama, in December 2018 by the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees. Under her leadership, Drake State is transitioning to become the premier training destination for businesses in greater Huntsville.

Dr. Sims has 25 years of experience in K-12 and higher education. Most recently, she served as dean for the College of Education at Athens State University after 12 years as an administrator for the Alabama Community College System. Before that, she was the director of student services management and dean of instructional and student services at Drake State for more than 12 years. She has also served as a teacher and principal in the Huntsville City Schools Systems.

Dr. Sims was featured in the May 2019 issue of Business Alabama Magazine, representing a diverse field of industry and education, recognizing her work as president.

Dr. Sims holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of West Alabama, a master’s degree in secondary education from Alabama A&M University, and a doctorate in educational leadership and organizational development from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Dr. Kevin W. Cosby

8. Dr. Kevin W. Cosby was named the 13th President of Simmons College of Kentucky (SCKY) in 2015. Two years later, the college returned to its original campus. In the 13 years of his tenure, he has led the institution in generosity and vision, as demonstrated by his refusal to accept a salary from the college. Under his visionary direction, SCKY was granted accreditation by the Association of Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) in February 2014, expanded its campus and added three new degree programs, and was officially designated as the nation’s 107th Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in April 2015. Prior to Simmons College, Dr. Cosby has held administrative and teaching assignments at Kentucky State University, the University of Louisville, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and United Theological Seminary. Additionally, his exceptional oratorical skills have garnered lecture engagements at universities and institutions all over the world, including Harvard University.

Since 1979, Dr. Kevin Cosby has served as Senior Pastor of St. Stephen Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Due greatly to his practical and dynamic Bible teachings, the congregation has grown from 500 to approximately 14,000 members, and has been recognized by Outreach magazine as one of the 100 largest churches in America (2010) and Emerge magazine as one of the six “super churches” in the South.

Dr. Cosby has authored five highly-acclaimed books: Get off Your But!: Messages, Musings & Ministries to Empower the African-American Church; As They Want; Treasure Worth Seeking; Who’s Your Daddy?: Life Lessons from the Prodigal Son and Loyal to the Royal. He has been a contributing writer to a number of books, journals, and periodicals.

Dr. Cosby earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, a master of divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, and a doctor of ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He has been awarded honorary doctorates from Eastern Kentucky University, Bellarmine University, and Campbellsville University.

Dr. Karrie G. Dixon

7. Dr. Karrie G. Dixon was named the 12th Chief Executive Officer and 7th Chancellor of Elizabeth City State University in December 2018. Prior to her appointment as interim chancellor, Dr. Dixon served as co-lead on the ECSU New Directions Phase 2 Operational Team since early 2017.

Dr. Dixon has served as a senior administrator at the University of North Carolina System since 2008. In 2014, she was promoted to Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs. During her tenure, she was responsible for providing University-wide guidance for policy that shapes the work and practice within academic and student affairs divisions. For nearly ten years, she has provided the UNC System office with her expertise in academic policy while leading various student success initiatives and managing processes to increase student access, enrollment, retention, and graduation rates. She has also served as the Chief Student Affairs Officer for the UNC System, working closely with the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and other University leaders on efforts regarding community college transfers, enrollment, and minimum admissions requirements, campus safety, and military student success.

Setting an institution-wide expectation for accountability, commitment, and excellence at ECSU from the beginning of her tenure, Dr. Dixon ensures that faculty, staff, alumni, internal and external stakeholders, and other community members know how valuable they are to the success of the university and its students. She was recently featured as one of the “Young HBCU Leaders Look to Carry the Torch” by Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

Dr. Dixon holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Public Relations from NC State University, a master’s degree in Speech Communications and Rhetoric from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a doctorate of education for NC State.

Dr. W. Franklin Evans

6. Dr. W. Franklin Evans is the 9th President of Voorhees College, has been in the position since 2016. Prior to being named the President of VC, he served as the Interim President of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, SC, where he also served as the provost and chief academic officer. Evans is well-versed in many areas; these include leadership and supervision in all academic programs and curriculum development, faculty recruitment, enrollment management, strategic planning, and the accreditation process. During his leadership, the institution has launched its first fully online degree program, unveiled a new surface at its track and field complex, and ended its fiscal year raising $1,150,850.35.

Several years ago, Dr. Evans served as the Vice President for Academic Affairs at VUU and was instrumental in leading the university through a successful reaffirmation of accreditation. He also held academic leadership roles at Elizabeth City State University, J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College, Alabama A&M University, and Tennessee State University.

Dr. Evans earned a doctoral degree in higher education administration from Georgia State University. He earned a degree in journalism, middle childhood education, curriculum and instruction, as well as administration and supervision from Georgia State University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in entomology from the University of Georgia in 1984.

Dr. Paul A. Jones

5. Dr. Paul A. Jones was appointed as the 10th president of Fort Valley State University in December 2015. Under his leadership, overall enrollment has grown by 0.9%. Before joining FVSU, he served two years as interim president at Darton State College in Albany, Georgia.

Prior to his interim presidential appointment, he served in numerous senior leadership roles at Georgia College & State University, including senior vice president for finance and administration, vice president and chief of staff, vice president for institutional research and enrollment management, and several interim roles including interim vice president of academic affairs and president. Dr. Jones was also a Professor of Educational Administration at Georgia College.

Dr. Jones earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree at Utah State University, and also holds a doctor of philosophy degree in education and human resource studies from Colorado State University.

Dr. Elwood L. Robinson

4. Dr. Elwood L. Robinson was named Chancellor of Winston-Salem State University in, September 2014, by the Board of Governors of the 17-campus University of North Carolina, and assumed his duties in January 2015. Dr. Robinson was inducted as a member of the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame on September 27, 2019.

In 2016, the university rolled out a five-year strategic plan that focuses on strengthening liberal education, enhancing academic excellence, and building a commitment to social justice through community engagement. Under his leadership, the university has made great strides in integrating what students learn in the classroom into every element of campus life. Additionally, WSSU maintains the highest six-year graduation rate of any of the UNC System’s minority serving institutions and is ranked as Money Magazine’s no. 1 public HBCU for 2019-20.

Prior to his appointment, Dr. Robinson served as Provost and Vice-President of Cambridge College. As a Cambridge College’s chief academic officer, Robinson has advised the president on matters of educational policy and the development of teaching and academic programs. Before, he was named Director of the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program, which provides research-training opportunities for students and faculty from minority groups underrepresented in the biomedical sciences.

From 1993-1996, Dr. Robinson also served as chair of NCCU’s Psychology Department. During his three-year term, he instituted a new clinical master’s program, developed a faculty development program, increased external funding, and improved graduation rates by 25 percent. In 2006, he was named founding Dean of the NCCU College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, where he oversaw nine departments, five centers and over 200 faculty and staff.

Dr. Robinson earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from North Carolina Central University; a master’s degree in psychology from Fisk University. He earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from Pennsylvania State University. He later completed his clinical training as a research associate at Duke University Medical Center.

Dr. George T. French, Jr.

3. Dr. George T. French, Jr., was named the fifth president of Clark Atlanta University in September 2019. He served as president of Miles College, 2006-2019 before taking the lead at CAU. During his tenure, Miles College exceeded capital campaign goals – besting previous fundraising records, achieved an unprecedented financial composite score to position the school for growth, increased student access to educational funding, and more than doubled the size of the existing campus with key land acquisitions.

Prior to serving as the president of Miles College, Dr. French served in the roles of acting and interim president for the institution between October and December 2005. Before serving as interim president, Dr. French served as a member of the President’s Cabinet in the capacity of director of Institutional Planning and Development, and as such directed the offices of Alumni Affairs, Federal Contracts and Grants, Title III, Institutional Research and Effectiveness, Congressional Relations, and Public Relations.

Dr. French earned a bachelor degree in political science with an emphasis in policy analysis from the University of Louisville. He was competitively accepted into the University of Richmond Law School and completed two years of studies before being recruited by Miles College to serve as the Director of Development. He completed his final year of law school at Miles Law School, earning a Juris Doctorate. Dr. French received his Ph.D. in higher education from Jackson State University.

In 2015, Dr. French co-founded Higher Education Leader Foundation to help prepare highly-skilled talent for positions of leadership at historically black colleges and universities.

Dr. Cynthia Warrick

2. Dr. Cynthia Warrick was named the 7th president of Stillman College in July 2017, prior to her appointment she served as interim president. Dr. Warrick raised roughly $2 million through alumni outreach to cover debt service and summer operating expenses as well as boost recruiting efforts.

A pharmacist and health services researcher, Dr. Warrick has 20 years of Higher Education experience as faculty and administrator. She previously served as an Assistant Professor in the Division of Management, Policy and Community Health at the University of Texas School of Public Health, Center of Health, Promotion and Prevention Research. Dr. Warrick then served as an Associate Professor and Director of Environmental and Occupational Health at Florida A&M University before she served at Elizabeth City State University as a Tenured Full Professor of Pharmacy, Dean, and Chief Research Officer.

In 2012, Dr. Warrick was selected as Interim President at South Carolina State University. In 2014, she was appointed as Interim President of Grambling State University, where she brought stability to the institution in its crisis. In 2017, Dr. Warrick was appointed as Interim President of Stillman College. Prior to, she was a Senior Fellow at Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) and also served as President of the Society for Diversity in the Biomedical Sciences, based in Houston, Texas.

Dr. Warrick earned her bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy from Howard University; and completed the masters of science in public policy from the George Institute of Technology, and the doctorate in environmental science & public policy from George Mason University.

Dr. Warrick is focused on connecting students and the college to opportunities that advance academic excellence, degree completion, admissions into graduate and professional schools, and fruitful careers.

Dr. Billy C. Hawkins

1. Dr. Billy C. Hawkins has served as president of Talladega College since January 1, 2008. During his tenure, he has stabilized finances, increased fundraising, expanded academic offerings, successfully guided the College in reaching record-breaking enrollment increases.

A 45,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art residence hall opened in January 2019. In 2020, two new facilities will open. On January 31, 2020, a ribbon-cutting will be held for the Dr. William R. Harvey Museum of Art, which will house six critically-acclaimed Hale Woodruff murals, including the renowned Amistad Murals. To construct the museum for Woodruff’s murals, which are valued at 50 million dollars, Dr. Hawkins secured Talladega’s largest-ever financial gift, a one-million-dollar donation from alumnus Dr. William R. Harvey. Dr. Hawkins also secured a 1.5 million dollar contribution from Alabama Kay Ivey and the State of Alabama.

Dr. Hawkins spearheaded a similar transformation at Texas College, where he also served as the 20th President. Prior to his arrival, the College had lost both its accreditation and its membership in the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). Prior to joining Texas College, Dr. Hawkins served as Provost, Vice President for Academic and Professor of Education at Mississippi Valley State University. He began his career as an educator in the Lansing Michigan Public Schools System. Dr. Hawkins also served as Vice President for Academic Affairs/Professor at Saint Paul’s College; Acting Dean, Associate Dean, and Assistant Dean/Professor in the College of Education at Ferris State University; and Director of Educational Opportunity Program, State University of New York at Morrisville College.

Dr. Hawkins earned a bachelor’s degree in Teacher Education from Ferris State University; a master’s degree in education administration from Central Michigan University; and a Ph.D. in education from Michigan State University. He completed post doctorate study at Harvard University.

17 thoughts on “The Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2020

  1. All ten leaders are well qualified and highly respected educators. I am not surprised, but at the same time I get so excited when I read articles that highlight the intellectual achievements of our people. In my opinion they are the people who our community should glorify and use as role models for our children. Superintendents and principles should invite some of these educators to speak to our children. Much love & respect to you all, as well as those who were not on “this” list!

  2. Chicago State University is NOT… I repeat… is NOT a HISTORICALLY Black College or University!!! It is a predominantly black college in the hood, not historical at all! Stop with the foolishness!

    1. Correct. However, it’s also categorized as a Minority-Serving Institution, which are institutions HCF supports. This makes Chicago State qualified to be represented in our publications, the name of this publication will not change.

  3. Recognition more than well deserved. I applaud them all, they represent some of the brightest America has to offer. Please continue to empower others. Through their leadership, brighter days are definitely ahead.

  4. If Dr. Ruth Simmons of Prairie View A & M University didn’t make this list, I question the criteria used to compile these choices!

  5. Great article highlighting these promininent leaders in our educational field. The achievements and the work they are conducting is inpiring to me. I am elated to have stumbled across the article in regards to the outreach I conduct at the University of Maryland Eatern Shore. Hopefully, the work and achievements of these leaders will influence other HBCUs and MSIs academic programs and students of these universities to excel in various fields of studies and professions.

  6. Excellence represented by the professional image of leadership is shown by each leader. Each leader must take a proactive approach to communicate the importance of professional image to their students as they embark on the business arena from hair style to attire, these leaders truly represent the essence of the black professional who represents well

  7. It is such a pleasure to see two men from my hometown being empowering influencers in the world. Congratulations to Dr. French and Dr. Cosby, I admire the way they use their personal power to better my community and the world.

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