The Bennett College Board of Trustees announced today the appointment of Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins as the institution’s eighteenth president. Dawkins assumes the presidency after serving as interim president since Aug. 15, 2016.
Dawkins is an accomplished leader in higher education who understands the inner-workings of the accreditation process and has a wealth of experience at historically black colleges and universities. Prior to coming to Bennett she served as acting president of Cheyney University in Cheyney, Pennsylvania, where she was also provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. She has also worked at Dillard University in New Orleans and Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“The Bennett College Board of Trustees is pleased with Dr. Dawkins’ performance during the period in which she served as interim president,” said Dr. Gladys Ashe Robinson, BOT chairwoman and a Democratic Senator from Guilford County. “She has developed a genuine relationship with students, faculty, staff and alumnae and is reaching into the religious, civic and philanthropic community to engage them in Bennett’s present and future sustainability. We are confident that Dr. Dawkins, along with the support of trustees, will reenergize, reorganize and rebrand Bennett for future success.”
Dawkins assumes the top academic post at Bennett College with five primary goals: increase enrollment and retention; strengthen academic offerings; increase funding to enhance budgeting; strengthen the accreditation status; and revise, implement and assess the strategic plan.
“I am extremely honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve as president of such an esteemed institution,” Dawkins said. “Bennett College was founded in 1873 and became women’s only in 1926. In the nine decades that Bennett has been one of only two all-women’s HBCUs in the country, she has produced outstanding leaders including the first African-American female surgeon in the south, the first African-American woman to become a district attorney in North Carolina and the current Deputy Minority Leader in the State Legislature.
“I have been thoroughly impressed with the students, staff and faculty of Bennett College since arriving in Greensboro in November 2015,” Dawkins continued. “For years Bennett has been one of higher education’s best-kept secrets, but I plan to work in concert with the BOT, faculty, staff, students and alumnae to ensure the institution’s visibility is raised. I am very grateful to the
Board for entrusting me with such an awesome responsibility, and I look forward to working closely with them to ensure we position Bennett College to continue educating young women for
generations to come. “
Under Dawkins’ interim leadership, in June Bennett signed a Memorandum of Understanding with American Language Academy that will help increase the institution’s numbers of international students. In late May, Dawkins traveled with eight students and a staff member to Seoul, South Korea to establish faculty and student exchange programs. Later this month she and another staff member will travel to South Africa to further enhance Bennett’s International Program. During her time as interim president, Dawkins was highly engaged with students. Moreover, the college has several MOUs under negotiation, including one involving a global exchange program.
Additionally, Dawkins reinvigorated Bennett’s relationship with several church denominations. She worked with the Rev. Dr. Daran H. Mitchell, senior pastor of Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church and President of The Pulpit Forum of Greensboro, to raise money for the college. Mitchell also gave Bennett’s Baccalaureate address in May. In January, she delivered the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. keynote address at First Baptist Church in Reidsville, North Carolina, before members of the Ministerial Alliance of Reidsville and Vicinity, and in late May Dawkins delivered a Women’s Day address at Shiloh Baptist Church in Greensboro.
Dawkins has also strengthened the college’s relationship with its founding denomination, The United Methodist Church, by hosting the Black Methodists for Church Renewal’s annual Roll Call in April and also attending a retreat of the United Methodist Church’s Western North Carolina Conference at Lake Junaluska in June.
During her time in the Triad, Dawkins has been visible throughout Greensboro and the state speaking to various groups and networking on behalf of Bennett. She has also organized several events designed to increase Bennett’s local visibility and bring resources to the campus. Among groups with whom she has networked or is affiliated are The Greensboro Men’s Club, The Triad Ministerial Alliance, The Greensboro Partnership and The Greensboro Chamber of Commerce. She also served on the transition team for Guilford County Schools’ new superintendent. She also serves on several regional and national boards.
Dawkins has also actively engaged with the institution’s alumnae, attending numerous chapter events and sponsoring Alumnae Donor Retreats. Under her leadership, alumnae giving and the overall percentage of alumnae gifts are up.
In May during commencement weekend, a $1.5 million scholarship campaign in honor of Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole was announced, Bennett officials have begun talks with Guildford County Schools about opening a school for foster care children on the campus, and just this week Dawkins participated in a recruitment event with Church of God in Christ leaders in Charlotte.
“Dr. Dawkins has worked diligently as Bennett’s interim president, and we anticipate her tenacity only increasing now that she is president of our great institution,” Robinson said. “The other Board members and I look forward to the many ways Bennett will progress under her direction, and we invite the public to support Bennett College financially as we embark upon a new chapter in the institution’s rich history.”
For more information about Dr. Dawkins, click here to read her full bio: bennett.edu/administration/president/