Four Amazing Black College Presidents That Inspire Those Who Come After Them – Part 4

This post is written with eyes wider than when I began the series. I have loved all the comments, regardless of the position taken.  I was rather proud of all of us,  not a temper tantrums to behold. I had this brilliant idea. I will write about black lives that have risen to the top of their professions as proof that blaming racism severely limits the possibilities of life.  Some comments basically said that these accomplishments prove nothing. “Well yes,” there are a brilliant few, but under no circumstance should they be separated from the racism and victimization that exist.  We cannot and will not abandon the facts we’ve been told about systematic racism, which seems to me makes successful black people out to be aberrations. Don’t skip the fact that “so and so” spoke about BLM and would be scandalized to be included in this series.  And really, Stepheny, you have no qualifications to write about something you can’t possibly understand. Though told that writing about racism is racist, I error on the side that says not talking about it opens the door to nonsense. If you believe you are 3/5 of a person because, at last week’s Council meeting, you were told that is so, you are better off listening to me write about how great these successful blacks are.

Dr. Shirley Jackson 

A theoretical physicist, Jackson has proven a trailblazer in every aspect of her career. She has been the driving force behind the explosive growth in funds, faculty, and programming at RPI since 1999. Since that time, her Rensselaer Plan has received more than $1.25 billion in invested funds. Jackson secured a $360 million anonymous, unrestricted gift in 2001; essentially, she has overseen and raised more funds than anyone else in the school’s history. During her tenure, Jackson has hired more than 325 new tenure-track faculty and implemented award-winning student life programs. In all her spare time, Jackson finds time to serve on multiple boards, including the New York Stock Exchange, IBM, and FedEx.

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson of RPI is more than the nation’s highest-paid college president: she is the woman Time magazine calls “the ultimate role model for women in science.”

First African-American woman to receive a doctorate from MIT
First African-American women to lead a top-ranked research university
Co-Chair of President’s Intelligence Advisory Board for Barack Obama
Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, appointed by Bill Clinton
Recipient of 53 honorary doctorate degrees
Highest-earning college president with a salary of more than $7 million
Ranked among the 50 Greatest Living Geniuses

Walter M. Kimbrough, Dillard University

Walter Kimbrough is known as the “Hip Hop Prez” thanks to his Twitter handle, Dr. Walter Kimbrough is one of the few college presidents known for using social media to its greatest advantage.

Recognized for his research and writings on historically black colleges and universities, Dr. Kimbrough came to Dillard University in 2012 after serving for seven years as the president of Philander Smith College, when he was one of the youngest university presidents of our time.

Named one of the 25 college presidents to follow on Twitter (, 2010)
Named by Diverse Issues in Higher Education as one of 25 to Watch (2009)
Made the coveted Ebony Magazine Power 100 list of doers and influencers in the African-American community (2010)

Christopher B. Howard, Hampden-Sydney College

Christopher Howard is not only one of the youngest college presidents in the United States; he also happens to be a Rhodes Scholar, an Air Force veteran, and an All-American high school football player.

Dr. Howard presides over Hampden-Sydney College, a private men’s school in Virginia. Since coming to H-S, the school has seen record enrollment numbers—the highest in the history of the college. Along with his wife Barbara, Howard co-founded Impact Young Lives, a non-profit group that provides scholarships and travel opportunities to college students of color in South Africa.

  • Recipient of the Air Force Academy’s Campbell Award, the highest academic award in the country presented to a senior football player
  • Named by the Library of Virginia a 2010 African-American Trailblazer in Virginia History
  • First African-American president at Hampden-Sydney
  • Senior advisor on African Affairs at the Albright Stonebridge Group

Gwendolyn Boyd, Alabama State University

There’s no place like home for Montgomery, Alabama native Gwendolyn Boyd, who has returned to her undergraduate alma mater as president. Alabama State University must have been glad to have her home after her 30+ years spent as an engineer at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratories: How often does a board agree on anything unanimously, much less the position of college president?

Boyd, who is single, came back to ASU in January 2014 and signed a contract that contained an interesting clause, one that prohibited her from having overnight visitors (of a romantic nature).

  • First female president of Alabama State University
  • First African-American female to earn a master’s in mechanical engineering from Yale
  • Appointed by President Obama in 2014 to the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African-Americans
  • An ordained itinerant elder in the AME Church

This information came from an article by The Best Schools – Interesting College Presidents   3-23-20

7 thoughts on “Four Amazing Black College Presidents That Inspire Those Who Come After Them – Part 4

  1. Hi Stephany! I am originally from RM, I now live in the greater NYC area. I am currently running a side gig with a freelance social media company, I run a page called “” on instagram. I would love to speak with you to see if you or if you know of anyone who may be interested in taking over the account, as i’m no longer there and it’s difficult for me to obtain content. It seems we are trying to accomplish the same things!

    Please feel free to shoot me an email and we can hop on a call.

    I’m looking forward to hearing from you!


  2. Hi Stepheny, thanks so much for talking about this topic and responding to comments. We need more conversations like this. I don’t if you have found this to be true but I find willingness to wrestle with these things and respond to criticism comes from resisting easy extremes and holding truths in tension. We are both our individuals efforts and products of our community. We are both capitalist and socialist (a mixed economy). We are both sinners and saints. We can both celebrate and lament. Etc. Praying for our city and country.


  3. Though there are no community college presidents up there, Dr. Greg McLeod at Edgecombe Community College is an excellent president. ECC is lucky to have him. He has faced a lot of challenges during his short tenure with grace and aplomb.


  4. So inspiring and interesting to read about the lives of these leaders, Stepheney. Would be fantastic if we all could listen to interviews with them about their lives and philosophies in leadership. 😎


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