I am Black history. I am Black excellence. I am Charlie Nelms, who is an educator and administrator. I served as the tenth chancellor of North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina.

ured: Dr. Charlie Nelms and Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr., (Former chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) at UAPB Chancellor’s Spring Convocation 2010. Credits: Chandra Walker

I was born in Crawfordsville, Arkansas in 1946, and I enrolled at Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) on academic probation with an ACT of 4, where I graduated with bachelor’s in agronomy and chemistry in 1969. I earned a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs and a doctorate in higher education administration from Indiana University. I served as chancellor of Indiana University East from 1987 to 1994 and chancellor of University of Michigan-Flint from 1994 to 2001, during which I resolved a significant campus budget deficit and reversed a four-year enrollment decline. I then returned to Indiana University system as vice president for Institutional Development and Student Affairs. Since taking the helm at NCCU, I improve retention and graduation rates, I reorganized the University College to provide intensive academic support and skills training for underprepared freshman and sophomores. Two years into my chancellorship, U.S. News & World Report ranked NCCU as the top public historically black college and university in the nation. During the 2009-10 academic year, NCCU observed its centennial. The physical appearance of the campus has been transformed into redesigned green spaces and a dramatic overhaul of the Fayetteville Street corridor. A new nursing building and residence hall were under construction; a much-needed parking deck opened in August 2010.

In 2011, I published “A Call to Action”, a policy directive intended to spur a national dialogue concerning the revitalization of the historically black colleges and universities as an important sector of American higher education.

On July 26, 2012, after completing a five-year commitment to serve NCCU, I announced my retirement, effective August 6, 2012.

I am currently a contributing writer for The Huffington Post on educational issues and has founded Destination Graduation, a non-profit organization focused on increasing retention and graduation rates at the nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).


Join HBCU Campaign Fund for Black History Month “I Am’s,” exhibiting the outstanding achievements of well-known Black individuals who has contributed to the Black community and beyond.

If you would like to contribute an “I Am” of your all-time favorite Black pioneer to be feature, you may e-mail your “I Am” to support@hbcucampaignfund.org.




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