The Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2023






“These days are not easy ones for those who are leaders in Education. 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. ”

 – Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.

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 a high-quality education to low-income, first-generation, and academically underprepared students. Also, these institutions as such serves a diverse population while maintaining the role as the backbone of higher education and well underrepresented for more than a 150-year history.

As the Founder, President and CEO of the HBCU Campaign Fund (HCF), a non-profit educational advocacy organization for private and public HBCUs and MSIs, leaderships plays a substantial role in the management of the day-to-day operations at an higher education institution. This sixth selected group of leaders has proven their responsibilities for shaping policies, changing perspectives, and making decisions that affect millions of individuals lives in the higher education space and the daily needs of what an HBCU or Minority-Serving Institutions contributes academically.

The organization has identified ten chancellors and presidents currently serving an HBCU or MSI, who exemplify a prominent and influential role in leadership and model the characteristics of the following responsibilities in the progression of effectively moving an institution forward.

We are thrilled to introduce the honorees of the Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, Jr. Trailblazer of Higher Education Award  among The Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders. This honor that was announced last year, recognizes a current or retiring/retired president or chancellor that serve(s) an HBCU or MSI and upholds decade-long value and contributions to the field of higher education. We are proud to honor retiring presidents Dr. Cynthia Warrick of Stillman College, and Dr. Ruth J. Simmons of Prairie View A&M University, as well as celebrate their retirements. We pause to honor the namesake of this award, Chancellor Emeritus Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, Jr., who left us in November of 2022. Please continue to keep the Davis family uplifted in your thoughts and prayers as we go into the new year without him. 

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, Jr. Trailblazer of Higher Education Award recipients, and the distinguished sixth class of the HBCU Campaign Fund’s National Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2023.








Demetrius Johnson, Jr.
Founder, President & CEO

The Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2023 Recipients

Kevin James, ED.D.


Morris Brown College


Kevin James, Ed.D., serves as the 19th President of Morris Brown College, a historical Black college founded in 1881 in Atlanta, Georgia. The institution is the only college in Georgia founded solely by African American patronage. Dr. James became the leader of the college while it was under duress and lacking recognition from the United States Department of Education as an institution in good standing. The institution lost its accreditation in 2002-03. Dr. James was serious about the historical legacy of Morris Brown and was on a mission to re-accredit the institution. As an executive leader with years of business experience, he understood that re-branding the institution while staying close to its mission was vital. Therefore, he initiated #TheHardReset, a campaign to restore Morris Brown to compliance and recognition by the Department of Education.

After three years of diligent restructuring, Morris Brown College secured “Accredited Status” with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) on April 26, 2022. The institution came into compliance with the standards and criteria to be deemed a quality institution. The school was evaluated by an on-site peer review team which determined that the institution provides sound instruction and appropriate student services. After the institution became a candidate for accreditation, it became eligible to apply to the U.S Department of Education to participate in financial aid programs and Title IV funding. Such funding was desperately needed to support the students and the overall mission of the college. Morris Brown’s access to Federal Financial aid has also been reinstated.

Dr. James made history by leading the institution to become the first HBCU to regain accredited status after a nearly twenty-year hiatus. He drew from his 22-year career as a higher education administrator, professor, executive business leader, and motivational speaker to fulfill his role as the Chief Executive Officer of the college. He is responsible for the leadership and management of all aspects of college operations. Dr. James is also responsible for the development and execution of the vision and strategic direction for the college, in concert with the Board of Trustees. To execute his preliminary vision of re-accreditation, he built a strategy around several core pillars: academic strength, governance, financial solvency, alumni partnership, and community engagement. Dr. James is committed to the legacy of Morris Brown, which empowers the community through education. He understood such empowerment could only be delivered through the pillars previously listed.

As President, Dr. James has stabilized finances; increased fundraising; expanded and revised academic offerings; successfully guided the institution through TRACS accreditation; and led the College in reaching record-breaking enrollment increases in the past twenty years. Under his leadership, Morris Brown College has been completely transformed and revitalized.

Prior to his post as President, Dr. James served as Interim CEO of the 100 Black Men of America, Inc., internationally headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. The mission of 100 Black Men of America is to improve the quality of life and enhance educational and economic opportunities for all African Americans.

In 2022, Dr. James was selected to Leadership Atlanta, Named Core 100 Most Influential Blacks Today, named one of 12 Prominent African Americans you should know by Upscale Magazine, named Honorary Chairman of The Walk Atlanta- National African American Male Wellness Initiative, named 22 to watch in 2022 by The Atlanta Business Chronicle, and named one of Atlanta’s Most Powerful Leaders by Atlanta Magazine. Moreover, he received the FACE of Influence Award and The Isaiah DeQuincey Newman Lifetime Humanitarian Award. In 2021, Dr. James was named College President of the Year by the Georgia Greater Black Chamber of Commerce and one of Atlanta’s Most Powerful Leaders by Atlanta Magazine. In 2020, he received the Winthrop University Alumni Professional Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions to higher education. Additionally, he received the 4 Brighter Futures Foundation, Inc. Chairman Award, was a Georgia Leadership Character Award nominee, Mentor of the Year for 100 Black Men of Atlanta, Inc., and Morris Brown College was named Top 10 Smaller HBCU that is Rising #4 by the HBCU Campaign Fund. Moreover, he was selected and completed the Higher Education Leadership Foundation/United Negro College Fund Presidential Leadership Institute.

A native of Columbia, South Carolina, Dr. James attended South Carolina State University and earned his bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders and Social Sciences from Winthrop University; a master’s degree in Business Management, Leadership, and Organizational Effectiveness from Troy State University; and a Doctor of Education degree in Higher Education Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. He is also a graduate of the Higher Education Institute at Harvard University.




SAVANNAH State University

Kimberly Ballard-Washington, J.D., was appointed President of Savannah State University by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia on May 13, 2021, after serving as the university’s interim president since July 1, 2019.

President Ballard-Washington has practiced law in the state of Georgia for 20 years and most recently served the University of Georgia (USG) as associate vice chancellor for Legal Affairs and as the assistant secretary to the Board of Regents (BOR). She honed her skills as an advocate for fairness and justice, serving as the BOR’s primary legal advisor on student, faculty, and employment issues. This role also gave her the opportunity to work directly with and provide advice and counsel to the USG university presidents and their leadership teams. She was also tasked with leading USG’s efforts in (the Education Amendments of 1972’s) Title IX administration.

President Ballard-Washington previously served as an associate director for legal affairs at the University of Georgia and as assistant to the president for Legal Affairs and director of Equal Opportunity Programs at Valdosta State University. In 2013, then-Chancellor Hank Huckaby asked then-associate Vice Chancellor Ballard-Washington to serve as interim president at Fort Valley State University, followed by an opportunity to led Albany State University on an interim basis. To date, President Ballard-Washington is the only person to have led all three of Georgia’s public Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Earlier in her career, she was named Georgia Trend Magazine’s “Top 40 under 40” list. In 2019, President Ballard-Washington completed the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ (AASCU) Millennium Leadership Institute. 

President Ballard-Washington also currently serves on the Board of Directors for the United Way of the Coastal Empire, co-chairing the Race, Equity and Opportunity Committee. Additionally, she is a member of the Rotary Club of Savannah. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, Islands Hospice, Bethesda Academy, and the American Red Cross’ Southwest Georgia Chapter.

Born and raised in Montezuma, Georgia, President Ballard-Washington received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Georgia. She earned her Juris Doctorate at Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law, where she was a leader in the Black Law Students Association and the Student Bar Association. 


Quinton T. Ross, Jr., ED.D.


Alabama State University

Quinton T. Ross, Jr., Ed.D., has served with distinction as the 15th President of his alma mater, Alabama State University since October 3, 2017. Dr. Ross assumed the helm of the University with a vision of growth and innovation and has been the driving force behind bold new initiatives and partnerships under his guiding mantra of “Moving ASU 150 years forward.”

Dr. Ross has set a new standard for fundraising at ASU. Under his leadership, fundraising at the institution has increased by nearly 130 percent with more than $7.6 million raised over a two-year period through corporate and individual donations, as well as increased legislative appropriations.

Dr. Ross has led the charge for development and constituent relations, and under his self-styled brand called CommUniversity, ASU has forged new partnerships and re-energized existing relations with international, federal, state and local stakeholders. He also has established a positive and open line of communication with local and statewide media. He also has been engaged by national media as an expert on the future of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), thereby allowing for an elevation of the University’s brand. Dr. Ross’s growing prominence as an educational leader was recognized in November 2019 with his election as vice-chairman of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education’s Council of Presidents. The Council consists of the presidents of each public four-year institution of higher education in the state of Alabama, as well as the State Superintendent of Education and the presidents of three public two-year institutions of higher education.  

Dr. Ross is a distinguished career educator with more than 25 years of experience in Higher and K-12 public education. For more than a decade, Dr. Ross served as the Director of Adult Education at H. Councill Trenholm State Community College. He later became a manager of UniServ Organizing/Staff Consultant to Higher Education for the Alabama Education Association. Preceding his work in higher education, Dr. Ross held various leadership positions in the Montgomery Public School system: he was a classroom teacher, administrative assistant, assistant principal and a high school principal. Additionally, he served as a central office Educational Specialist. Dr. Ross has made it his mission to be a community advocate for public education and to help young people “grasp the light of knowledge through embracing diversity.”

Prior to becoming President of his alma mater, he had begun his fourth term in the Alabama State Senate after having been elected to his first term in 2002. While serving in the Senate, Dr. Ross distinguished himself as a true statesman and was one of seven African Americans serving in the Alabama State Senate. In 2015, he was elected as the first African-American male Senate Minority Leader and the first Minority Leader elected to a four-year term. During his service, Dr. Ross was an established legislative leader and an unwavering advocate for public education, as well as issues dealing with child safety and the general welfare of all Alabamians. Throughout his legislative tenure, Dr. Ross served on numerous committees, including Bank and Insurance, Confirmation, County and Municipal Government, Transportation and Energy, Military Affairs and the powerful Finance and Taxation Education Committee. He also was Vice-Chair of the Education Youth Affairs Committee.

Before becoming an educator or being elected to office, Dr. Ross was a Statewide Field Representative for the Alabama Democratic Party and the Alabama Democratic Conference for a number of years and has held key positions in numerous political campaigns. He also served as Co-Chair of the State Advisory Committee for President Barack Obama’s first election.

Dr. Ross is a three-time graduate of Alabama State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science in 1992, a Master of Arts degree in Education Secondary Education  English in 1995, and a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership, Policy and Law in 2010.

Dr. Ross holds professional memberships in several organizations, such as the Alabama Council of Presidents, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, National Education Association, National Council of Higher Education, Alabama Education Association, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and 100 Black Men, Inc.


Carmen J. Walters, Ph.D.


tougaloo college

On July 1, 2019, the Tougaloo College Board of Trustees named Carmen J. Walters, Ph.D., the fourteenth president to lead the institution. A respected, passionate, and strategic thinker with broad knowledge, Dr. Walters brings a blended set of skills and over 24 years of leadership in curriculum and policy development, fundraising, student enrollment and retention management, team building, conflict resolution, strategic planning, and organizational management. She has a reputation for leveraging collaborative partnerships with private and public organizations, enabling students, faculty, and staff to cross institutional boundaries and engage in innovative instruction to ensure student success.

Dr. Walters, a champion of the liberal arts, embraces Tougaloo College’s storied past and looks ambitiously toward preserving and advancing its legacy of academic excellence and social responsibility while moving this remarkable historic institution into a new decade of leading and learning. Since arriving, she has started a strategic planning process that will include priorities and strategies to elevate the student experience; expand academic programs; increase enrollment; increase fundraising and build a more robust endowment for the college; enhance the campus buildings and grounds; increase academic, corporate and foundation partnerships; and, build quality and increase regional, national, and international distinctiveness and recognition for the college. She aims for Tougaloo College to be one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges that produce leaders who are unafraid to tackle tough issues, scholars who have the courage to meet the demands of our time.

Dr. Walters serves on numerous boards, including the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation, Tougaloo College Research and Development Foundation, Higher Education Research and Development Institute, Council for Independent Colleges Faculty for New Presidents, and the United Negro College Fund, serving as an Institutional Director and on the Pre-Alumni and Budget Committees. Her membership affiliations include Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Theta Zeta Omega Chapter and the Jackson Mississippi Chapter of the Links. In recognition of her extraordinary achievements and contributions, she is the recipient of numerous awards, commendations, and recognitions. In addition, she is a sought-after speaker and presenter sharing her thoughts on enrollment management, leadership, college completion, emotional intelligence, strategic planning, and other current issues in higher education.

A native of Harvey, Louisiana, Dr. Walters earned her Ph.D. from Mississippi State University, her Master of Arts in Postsecondary Counseling from Xavier University of Louisiana, and her Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Business Administration from Southern University at New Orleans.


Jack Thomas, ph.d.


Central State University

Jack Thomas, Ph.D., took office as the ninth president of Central State University on July 1, 2020, bringing decades of successful academic leadership

Dr. Thomas comes to Central State after nearly a decade as president of Western Illinois University, a state-run university, where he successfully managed a budget of nearly $224 million during a period of unprecedented state fiscal challenges. Dr. Thomas was a Senior Fellow with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

At WIU, Dr. Thomas was responsible for a number of accomplishments, including increasing diversity, creating new academic programs, managing fiscal and cash flow issues brought on by the state’s financial crisis, investing in STEM and other academic programs, increasing funding for student scholarships, and establishing a presidential institute to foster and improve corporate, community and K-12 relations. Under Dr. Thomas’ leadership, the Institution constructed a new campus in Moline, Illinois, and achieved its multimillion-dollar capital campaign goal. WIU has been rated as a “Best in the Midwest College” by the Princeton Review and as a top tier Midwest Universities Master’s institution by U.S. News and World Report.

In addition to serving as president, he has also held an assortment of senior leadership and academic positions at Middle Tennessee State University, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and South Carolina State and Johnson C. Smith universities.

Prior to WIU, Dr. Thomas spent more than 20 years serving in various capacities in several institutions of higher education. From 2004 until 2008, he served as senior vice provost for Academic Affairs and interim dean at Middle Tennessee State University. There, Dr. Thomas improved diversity, assisted with the design of new academic programs, coordinated the implementation of a new key assessment instrument, enhanced academic reviews, and mentoring.

From 1990 until 2004, Dr. Thomas served in several roles at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, including interim president, executive vice president, and associate vice president for Academic and Student Affairs. During his tenure, he enhanced fundraising, implemented new academic programs, and drove increased enrollment.

Dr. Thomas’ influence on the academic community extends to his service on several distinguished boards including the Marguerite Casey Foundation Board of Directors; the Illinois Board of Higher Education; the Stillman College Board of Trustees; the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education Board; the American Council on Education Council of Fellows; the NCAA Presidential Forum; the Illinois Campus Compact Board; the Heart of Tennessee Chapter of the American Red Cross Board; and the Rutherford County YMCA Board.

Nationally, Dr. Thomas graduated from the Harvard Leadership Program, served as an American Council on Education Fellow, was a Kellogg-NAFEO Fellow, participated in the Salzburg Seminar in Salzburg, Austria, and participated in Leadership Middle Tennessee. He has also served as the chair of the NCAA Accelerating Academic Success Program (AASP) Selection Committee. He served as the chairperson of the (AASCU) Christa McAuliffe Award Presidential Selection, and as a committee member of the Middle States Visitation Team.

A native of Lowndes County, Alabama, Dr. Thomas holds a Ph.D., in English (Literature and Criticism) from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a Master of English Education from Virginia State University, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Alabama A & M University. He is a noted scholar and lecturer, as well as a highly sought-after keynote speaker presenting his research and inspirational messages locally, nationally, and internationally.


John Pierre


Southern University, Law center

John K. Pierre has devoted his career to molding lawyer leaders and being a champion of innovation. He received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Southern University in 1980, a master’s degree in tax accounting from Texas Tech University in 1982, and a juris doctor degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law in 1985. 

After graduating from law school, from 1986 to 1990, Pierre served his country as a Judge Advocates General Corps Officer, or JAG, for the United States Army. In 1990, his next assignment led him to the classroom as he began serving as a faculty member at the Southern University Law Center, where he taught courses, such as tax law, security devices, local government law and more. In addition, he has previous teaching experience as a visiting and adjunct professor at California State University, Southern Methodist University School of Law, Loyola University Law School, Southern University College of Business, Saint Leo’s College, Webster University, Louisiana State University, and Baton Rouge Community College. Beyond the classroom, Pierre has published numerous articles on tax law, sales and contracts, real estate and commercial law, ranging from magazine features to legal journal and law review articles.

In 2006, he transitioned to a leadership role within the institution becoming the vice chancellor of institutional accountability and the evening division. Currently, he has been serving as the Law Center’s chancellor since 2016. Under his tutelage, the Southern University Law Center has thrived as a global legal institution. Year after year, it is recognized for its diversity, world class faculty, and racial justice efforts. As a progressive leader and visionary, he advocates for technology advancements, community outreach initiatives, and strategic partnerships that ensures access and opportunity is provided to all.

Beyond the education field, Pierre was involved in the Baton Rouge school desegregation case as co-counsel for the Baton Rouge Branch of the NAACP in Davis v. East Baton Rouge Parish School Board. He was also co-counsel in the landmark case of McWaters v. Fema.

Pierre fervently serves as a transformational change agent and inspiration to legal professionals and thoughts leaders around the globe. He has earned numerous awards for his leadership, innovative strategy, and tireless efforts within the legal and professional realm. Hampton University, the Baton Rouge Bar Association, and the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus are just a few of the organizations that have bestowed honors upon Pierre throughout his career. Also, his alma mater, Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, has named him a Distinguished Alumni. Pierre has served as a contributing panelist during national discussions with the Peggy Browning Fund, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the National Pre-Law Summit, and more.

He remains a member of numerous state and national organizations, including the Louisiana State Bar Association and the Texas Bar Association.


Robin capehart


bluefield state university

The Bluefield State University Board of Governors selected Robin Capehart as the University’s next President. The announcement was made at a September 11, 2019 special meeting of the BSU Board on the Bluefield State University campus.

Capehart, who served as president of West Liberty State University for eight years, has served as BSU’s interim president since January 2019.


Sean L. Huddleston, ED.d.


martin University

Sean L. Huddleston, Ed.D., became the fifth president of Martin University on March 19, 2019. He brings over 30 years of experience in the private and public sectors to his role as President and Chief Executive Officer of Indiana’s only Predominantly Black Institution (PBI).

Dr. Huddleston is widely recognized as a servant-leader. His focus on the student as a whole-individual, dedication to the well-being and career development of the university’s faculty and staff, commitment to building and sustaining relationships with local, regional, and national employers, and a clear definition of community beyond geographical boundaries, guide his vision for Martin University as a purveyor, overseer, and accelerator of collective impact. 

Dr. Huddleston led the development of Martin University’s five-year strategic plan – “Mission Driven, Future Focused” – a planning and implementation process culminating in 2027 when the university will celebrate its 50th Anniversary. Later in 2022, the university will unveil its first master plan in a decade.

Through Dr. Huddleston’s leadership, Martin University founded the National Center for Racial Equity and Inclusion, targeted at businesses and nonprofits in Indiana to assist their leaders and the surrounding communities in strengthening diversity, equity, and inclusion. Additionally, the Martin WORKS apprenticeship program, Indiana’s only urban work college program, was created to allow university students working with local employers to have the opportunity to earn compensation while solidifying a permanent position with that employer before graduation.

Before being named President and Chief Executive Officer of Martin University, Dr. Huddleston served as Vice President and Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer at the University of Indianapolis. Before that, he was Chief Officer of Diversity, Inclusion & Community Engagement at Framingham State University in Framingham, Massachusetts. He also served as an Assistant Vice President at Grand Valley State in Allendale, Michigan.

He has served on the boards of First Financial Bank, Greater Indiana Progress Committee, Indiana Economic Development Club, Indiana Symphony Orchestra, Kennedy-King Memorial Initiative, Newfields, and the Red Cross of Indiana.

Dr. Huddleston earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree (B.A.) from Siena Heights University. He later earned a Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree in Adult and Higher Education and an Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) in Leadership from Grand Valley University. Dr. Huddleston completed his doctorate in Community College Leadership at Ferris State University (Ed.D.) and has received professional certifications from Cornell University and Dartmouth College. 

Dr. Huddleston is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and the Alpha Eta Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity.


Media Coverage

  • HCF Announces Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, Jr. Trailblazers of Higher Education Award among The Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders Award and Class (HBCU Campaign Fund)