Dr. Harry Williams Named President & CEO of Thurgood Marshall College Fund

Williams’ 10-year DSU Tenure Marked Unprecedented Growth

Washington, DC – (October 23, 2017) – The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), the nation’s largest organization exclusively representing the Black College Community, awarded Dr. Harry Lee Williams its Educational Leadership Award and announced him as the new TMCF President & Chief Executive Officer at its 30th Anniversary Awards Gala. Dr. Williams will end his distinguished tenure at Delaware State University (DSU) January 20, 2018.

As President & CEO, Williams will lead TMCF’s 47 member-schools. These schools represent nearly 300,000 students from America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions, and enroll nearly 80% of all students attending HBCUs. He will be charged with building new strategic partnerships to secure millions of dollars creating scholarships, enhancing capacity, expanding HBCU research initiatives, and stimulating innovative programming. Williams will also lead TMCF’s K-12 public education reform efforts, and its pipeline programming for Fortune 500 companies seeking highly qualified employees for increasingly diverse US and international markets. Williams replaces Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., who served as TMCF’s President & CEO for seven years before accepting the position as President & CEO of the Society of Human Resource Management.

TMCF Board Chairman Jim Clifton noted, “Dr. Harry Williams is the first President & CEO of TMCF appointed as a sitting HBCU President. As a former TMCF Board member, he brings a 360-degree perspective to our next phase of growth and development.” Clifton continued, “Under Johnny’s dynamic leadership, TMCF was able to identify those institutions that employed best practices in higher education leadership to serve as models for the entire Black College Community. Delaware State University was an incredible example for us all, and now, Harry’s number one priority will be building scale and capacity across the HBCU community and strengthening these great institutions from their very cores. Without strong, healthy HBCUs, America cannot keep pace in a smaller, more specialized, diverse, and connected world.”

Calling his time at Delaware State University “the most defining decade of my professional life,” Williams recalls the pride he has taken in leading the institution through its greatest period of growth and opportunity. “My family and I are deeply indebted to the State of Delaware and to Delaware State University. This University and its community – students, staff, faculty, alumni, trustees – have given us more than we could ever have imagined.”

“Every day I’ve attempted to return that same level of energy and commitment to the Hornet Nation, so that DSU takes its rightful place among the most important, diverse, and influential HBCUs in the country. While much remains to do, we have achieved our initial objectives and are now perfectly poised for the future. What makes me most proud is that we did it TOGETHER!”

Williams began his DSU career in 2007 with an appointment as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Over the next eighteen months he reshaped the curriculum to expand its offerings, increased the academic profile of the student population, and enhanced the University’s research agenda.

Named President in 2009, he developed a compelling vision for the University’s long-term strategic growth. He grew enrollment by 22%, to record levels in the University’s 126-year history, while building a research capacity of nearly $30 million in grants that included a cutting-edge Optics Center and the University’s first patents. DSU simultaneously developed an international portfolio including agreements with twenty-six countries worldwide, including joint-degree programs in Asia, Europe and Africa. Williams also spearheaded an unprecedented $20 million fundraising campaign, and attracted the investment from national philanthropic organizations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Don Graham’s TheDream.US. At the same time, Williams dramatically expanded DSU’s footprint in Delaware, launching the Delaware Institute for Science and Technology, chartering the Early College High School, and establishing a major satellite campus in metropolitan Wilmington, Delaware’s only urban center.

Today, as DSU attracts national attention for its work in data-driven student retention programs and a bold commitment to seventy-five Dreamers in the student body, Williams is widely regarded as one of the “ten most influential HBCU Presidents in America,” a formal recognition he received from HBCU Digest earlier this year.

Delaware Governor John Carney led a chorus of praise for the departing President, saying, “Dr. Williams has led Delaware State University during a critical time – when higher education has been more important than ever to the success of young Delawareans, and to our collective success as a state,” said Governor Carney. “DSU has long been one of Delaware’s most important and historic institutions, and its contributions to our state, our ability to attract talented young people, and prepare the next generation, have only grown under Dr. Williams’ guidance. We’ll miss his leadership in Delaware. The Thurgood Marshall College Fund is lucky to have him and we wish him well.” Delaware’s entire Congressional Delegation – Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons; and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt-Rochester – joined the well-wishers, lauding Williams for his accomplishments and predicting great things for him at TMCF.

DSU Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Wilma Mishoe, whose father Luna Mishoe was the longest-serving President in DSU history, said, “Dr. Williams is a visionary leader whose acumen and style are matched only by his commitment to our students’ success. There could not have been a more ideal person to lead us through the still early days of the 21st Century. He embodies the very best of us from our initial roots as the Delaware College for Colored Students to our evolution as a comprehensive teaching, learning, and research University.”

“We will miss him, along with his extraordinary wife Dr. Robin Williams, who is a force in her own right, and their two lovely children, Gavin and Austin. As our first family, they have been a great example of what love, service and sacrifice look like when on full display.”

Mishoe, who was named as the first female Board Chair at DSU in July 2017, said that the University must now look to the future: “Our task is to find the next great, transformative leader for DSU. The Executive Committee will meet this week, followed very shortly by the full Board of Trustees, to discuss our path forward through a transition plan and a national search process. Stakeholders from the entire DSU family will be apprised of our progress and involved in our process.”

Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White is Director of Digital Strategy for the Tom Joyner Foundation, a writer and editor.