This month, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) institutions – Spelman College, Dillard University, Hampton University, and Southern University officially welcomed their selected presidents to their campuses to begin their presidential tenures.

Spelman College, America’s oldest private HBCU liberal arts college for women, announced the selection of Helene Gayle, a globally recognized public health leader, in April 2022. Dr. Gayle previously led The Chicago Community Trust, one of the nation’s oldest and largest community foundations. In a 3-minute welcome introduction video, Dr. Gayle thanks the Spelman and Atlanta community for the warm welcome to campus and congratulatory messages received. Additionally, she addressed that she is prepared to collaborate with crucial partners, identify strategic priorities, solve critical issues and forget new opportunities for the college.

Dr. Gayle succeeded Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., who served a seven-year tenure as Spelman’s 10th president.

“I’m excited about Dr. Gayle’s appointment and confident that her demonstrated ability to address complex issues in communities of color many of which involve the strength of Black females and her success factors, coupled with her commitment to equity, will further build on Spelman’s legacy and propel the College into the future,” said Rosalind G. Brewer, Spelman College Board Chair.

Meanwhile, on Dillard University’s Avenue of the Oaks, madam president and Howard University alumnae Dr. Rochelle Ford has presented the campus with her charismatic elegance. Dillard selected Dr. Ford as the eighth president, succeeding Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough.

Dr. Rochelle Ford, 8th president of Dillard University. (Courtesy of Dillard University)

Ford previously served as dean of Elon University’s School of Communications. Before that, she served as Syracuse University’s Provost faculty fellow. The dynamics in her have her already hitting the ground running, and as Dr. Ford mentioned during an interview with Higher Ed Drive, she plans to meet people and listen to what they’re excited about. She wants to know what they believe is possible to ensure Dillard’s sustainability for generations to come.

“Students, faculty, and trustees were blown away by her insight, passion and drive. As impressive as Dillard has been over the past 150 years in producing history makers and change agents, there is no questions that, under Dr. Ford’s leadership, the best is yet to come,” said Michael D. Jones, Esq., Chair of Dillard’s Board of Trustees.

Two more presidents have begun their roles at HBCUs and are succeeding retiring presidents. Darrell K. Williams to lead Hampton University and Dennis J. Shields will lead the way at the only university system known to HBCUs, the Southern University System. President-Chancellor Shields will also lead the main campus in Baton Rouge (Southern University and A&M College). His previous experience has been in higher education outside of the HBCU space. So during his 100 days, he is expected to understand his dual role as President-Chancellor and the HBCU experience. His plans focus primarily on student outcomes (retention, graduate rates, and first-time employment), community engagement, and stakeholder involvement.

Southern University President-Chancellor Dennis J. Shields met with students, faculty, and staff during his first week of his presidential tenure on campus. (Courtesy of Southern University and A&M College)

Dr. Shields previously served as the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Platteville since 2010.

On the other hand, Hampton University also hired a male successor for Dr. William R. Harvey, alumnus Ret. U.S. Army Gen. Darrell K. Williams. With background as an educator with nonprofit development experience, Williams says that his focus will be creating an unparalleled higher education experience for students that includes excellent academics, support for strong physical, emotional, and mental health, and access to cutting-edge technology, research opportunities and innovative students.

Hampton University President Darrell K. Williams and First Lady Williams walking the campus, meeting and eating with students in the dinning hall during their first week of the presidential tenure. (Courtesy of Hampton University)

“I love Hampton and the opportunities provided to me here. The university’s values and standard of excellence will not change. As the new president, my priority will be providing our students with a robust experience that is second to none and prepares them for life after graduation,” said Williams.

Williams retired from the U.S. Army in 2020 after 37 years of service. His last leadership position was as the first Black and 19th director of the Department of Defense’s Defense logistics Agency (DLA). He oversaw a global workforce of over 26,000 civilian and military professionals. He comes to Hampton from Fortune 250 technology company Leidos, where he served as the global organization’s United Kingdom vice president and managing director of the U.K. Ministry of Defense Logistics Commodities and Services Transformation (LCST) programme, providing global logistical support to U.K. military forces.

HCF welcomes all four of them to leadership at the helm of their designated colleges and universities and expresses our profound and heartfelt congratulations on their appointment. We appreciate their leadership and wish them the very best throughout their tenures.

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