On January 3, 2023, Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) President Clarence Armbrister announced that he would retire in June. Armbrister became the 14th president of the university on January 1, 2018, after five years of serving at the helm.

Four days after the announcement of JCSU President Armbrister’s announcement, HCF President and CEO Demetrius Johnson, Jr., and the organization has unanimously announced that Armbrister will be one of the 2024 honorees to receive the Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr. Trailblazers of Higher Education Award among The Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2024.

Dr. Clarence Armbrister, 14th President of Johnson C. Smith University

During President Ambrister’s five year tenure at JCSU, under his leadership has overcome necessary challenges. There were financial needs, residence hall issues, and a global pandemic. And just that, President Armbrister demonstrated transformational and unwavering commitment to the mission and vision of JCSU effectively.

Armbrister will forever be recognized for the unprecedented public-private partnerships he established through the Mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative, which resulted in the single largest gift that JCSU has ever received. The $80 million, five-year commitment to support the new strategic business plan has positioned the university to elevate its standing in the Charlotte community and the world of higher education, to one of the most influential and consequential HBCU’s in the nation.

Demetrius Johnson Jr., Founder, President & CEO at HBCU Campaign Fund.

Mary McLeod Bethune once said, “that unusual foresight, tactful approach, Christian fortitude and a high degree of able performance are required for the successful President of an institution of higher learning. These attributes you have demonstrated in your service.” President Ambrister has exceptionally demonstrated those characteristics during his tenure at JCSU, and we commend him for that,” said Demetrius Johnson Jr., Founder, President & CEO at HBCU Campaign Fund. “As JCSU enters the next phase to continue on its path as one of our nation’s premier HBCUs, President Armbrister’s leadership will always be noted for his unwavering love for the University. President Armbrister took the oath of office missioned focused, which made his leadership more transformational than ever.”

Ambrister has more than 35 years of experience in the private and public sectors, has an extensive background at all levels of education, including time in senior administrative and leaderships positions at Temple University, John Hopkins University, the School District of Philadelphia and Girard College. In addition to his background in education, Armbrister has held executive positions in law, government and finance.

A native of Miami, Fla., Armbrister received Bachelor of Arts degrees in political science (concentrating in public policy) and in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School.

The award was named after the late University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s Chancellor Emeritus Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr., who passed away on October 15, 2022. The recipients awarded are evaluated on their drive to advance the mission to change and inspire others. The individual has prove their responsibilities for shaping policies, changing perspectives, and making decisions that affect millions of people life’s in the higher education space.

The Annual Most Dominant HBCU Leaders Award & Class is a national recognition ranking that was created by the HBCU Campaign Fund, a non-profit that advocates for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions (MSIs). The recipients are honored for their prominent and influential role in leadership and displays the characteristics of the responsibilities in the progression of effectively moving an institution forward.

The new Class of 2024 is expected to be announced early next January.

About the HBCU Campaign Fund
The HBCU Campaign Fund (HCF) was founded in 2012 and is a non-profit educational organization that remains a strong advocate for students and higher education. The mission of HCF is to support the significance and raise funds for scholarships, programs, and for private and public HBCUs and MSIs. For more information, visit www.hbcucampaignfund.org.

SALISBURY, NC – One hundred and twenty-five years ago, Livingstone College awaited the arrival of Johnson C. Smith University (then Biddle Memorial Institute), who traveled by horse and buggy to Salisbury to play football.The contest held on a snowy December 27, 1892, on the front lawn of Livingstone College, was the first black intercollegiate football game.

In 2009, the two schools decided to start an annual Commemorative Classic football game to honor the inaugural matchup. The classic is the last football game of the regular season with location now alternating between the two campuses.

“How fitting that on this 125th anniversary, the game will be played where it all started – on the campus of Livingstone College,” said Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr., Livingstone College president.

The original Livingstone team was formally organized in the fall of 1892 and included J.W. Walker (captain); W.J. Trent (manager), who later became the longest-serving president of Livingstone to date; R.J. Rencher; Henry Rives; C.N. Garland; J.R. Dillard; J.B.A. Yelverton; Wade Hampton; Charles H. Patrick; J.J. Taylor; and F.H. Cummings.

According to the college newspaper’s 1930 edition, team members purchased a regulations football and uniforms, and the players equipped their street shoes with cleats, taking them off after practice. The young women of the school’s industrial department made the players’ uniform.

The teams played two 45-minute halves with Trent scoring Livingstone’s only touchdown on a fumble recovery. Biddle argued that the fumble was recovered out of bounds as the snow had covered the field’s markings. The official ruled in Biddle’s favor, allowing them to keep the 5-0 lead and giving them the victory.

“We’re always optimistic about the game,” said Coach Andre Springs, Livingstone’s Athletic Director. “But this is more than a game. The Commemorative Classic pays homage to those original teams that started a tradition of black college football in this country that has made a positive difference and blazed a mighty trail for student athletes.”

This year, Livingstone College and Johnson C. Smith University celebrate 125th anniversary with a host of events following the Commemorative Classic football game that was played on November 4 at Livingstone College.

JCSU took the victory over Livingstone 27-14.