Howard University’s New President Poised To Elevate Black Excellence And Global Impact


Ben Vinson III will be the 18th president of Howard University in Washington D.C. He comes to the historically Black institution after serving as provost at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH since 2018. Vinson is a historian of Latin America. His research focuses on both African American experiences in Mexico and Afro-Mexican experiences in the U.S. and he is the author of Before Mestizaje: The Frontiers of Race and Caste in Colonial Mexico.

Unlike most presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Vinson did not graduate from an HBCU. He is an alumnus of Dartmouth College and Columbia University. That being said, he is aware of and committed to the legacy and future of Howard University, noting, “When you look at the legion of HBCUs that exist, Howard stands tall…. When I think of Howard, I think of excellence, … I think of leadership, and I think of the pinnacle of educational possibilities in this world.” Dietra Trent, the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Advancing Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities, is excited to see Vinson joining HBCU leadership, stating, “I am proud to welcome Dr. Ben Vinson III to the HBCU family. I frequently say that HBCUs lead other universities in the world by embedding leadership, excellence, and service in every course and I am confident President Vinson III will continue fostering servant leaders at the helm of Howard University. I look forward to working with him to further Howard University’s legacy of cultivating Black leaders and developing Black excellence.”

Vinson is the father of three children and draws upon this experience to gain awareness on the lives of college students. He shared, “Being a parent gives me an insight on what is on the minds of students around campus today. Being able to know when to guide, when to let go, when to lean in and when to listen — these are some of the things from my own experiences as a father I think I also bring to the job as a president.”

As a leader, he sees himself as a collaborator, learner, and someone committed to empathy. As he shared, “Leadership is about learning and applying that learning.” In his message to the Howard University and beyond, he made sure to speak to students, faculty and staff about his deep respect for all of their roles and contributions to the Howard community.

Howard University has long been considered “Mecca” for African Americans — a place of profound Black expression, Black intellect, and Black achievement. In recent years, the institution experienced unprecedented enrollment growth, secured $122 million in federal grants in 2022 alone, and hired several high profile intellectuals including journalist Nikole Hannah Jones and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Given Vinson’s leadership and research expertise, Howard has the opportunity to move in many new directions. In the words of renowned African American studies scholar Henry Louis Gates, “Under Dr. Vinson’s visionary leadership, Howard University is poised to become one of the leading centers for the study of people of African descent in the United States, in Africa, and throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.”

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