New Executive Director Named To Head White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities - Higher Education
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New Executive Director Named To Head White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities

by Diverse Staff

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced last Friday the appointment of Dr. John Silvanus Wilson Jr. as executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Wilson replaces Dr. Leonard Haynes, who had been appointed by President George W. Bush to the position.

“We’re delighted to have someone with the breadth and quality of experience that Dr. Wilson brings to address the challenges our HBCUs face,” President Barack Obama said.  “His expertise and insight will be invaluable to the department.”

As executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, Wilson will work with the presidentially appointed HBCU Board of Advisors and assist the Secretary as liaison between the executive branch and HBCUs.  He also will work with 32 federal agencies that support HBCUs through federal grants and contracts.

“I am pleased President Obama selected Dr. Wilson to head the White House Initiative. Among other things, he will be a strong advocate for HBCUs with the federal agencies,” said Dr. William R. Harvey, president of Hampton University.

Wilson has been an associate professor of higher education at George Washington University since 2006, when he took research leave as executive dean of the university’s Virginia campus, a post he has held since 2002. He joined the staff at George Washington in 2001 to help develop a strategic plan for the university. Previously he spent 16 years at MIT, where he served as director of foundation relations and assistant provost. 

Wilson also held several teaching positions during more than a decade at Harvard University’s Afro-American Studies Department as well as at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His primary research and teaching interests include advancement and finance in higher education and the transformation of aspiring colleges and universities, especially HBCUs.

Wilson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College, a Master of Theological Studies degree from Harvard University, and both master’s and doctoral degrees in educational administration, planning and social policy, also from Harvard University.


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