Tuskegee University Names New President; Among Youngest at HBCUs


Brian Johnson was recent named president of Tuskegee University, becoming one of the youngest leaders of a historically Black institution.

Johnson, 40, will succeed Dr. Gilbert L. Rochon and assume the role of president on June 15. Johnson was unanimously elected by the Board of Trustees as the seventh president in the university’s 133-year history after an extensive national search.

“The Board of Trustees’ presidential search team worked very hard over the past six months to find the seventh president of our university,” retired Maj. Gen. Charles E. Williams, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “Dr. Brian Johnson is the perfect fit for these times and his selection was unanimous. We are pleased with his preparation to serve as our next president and he has our total support.”

Johnson comes to the historic university from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., where he was interim vice president for strategic planning and institutional effectiveness and assistant vice provost/assistant vice president for academic affairs.

Before joining Austin Peay in 2010, Johnson served as chief of staff in the president’s office at Johnson C. Smith University, an HBCU and Johnson’s alma mater.

He also holds degrees from the University of South Carolina-Columbia and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and was recently named an American Council of Education Fellow, spending significant time at Indiana Indiana University-Purdue University–Indianapolis.

Johnson has authored or edited seven academic books, including two on W. E. B. Du Bois and one on the institutional history of Johnson C. Smith University. He is also a husband and father of two sons, ages 10 and 9.

“I am honored to have been selected as a servant and steward of a tremendous, powerful tradition and legacy,” Johnson said in a statement. “I see myself in the tradition represented in the Tuskegee man and woman. It will be a privilege to serve the Tuskegee alumni, Board of Trustees, faculty, staff and most of all—students.”

Tuskegee University, founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington, is one of the nation’s leading HBCUs, carrying on as the “intellectual epicenter of African American culture and academia.”

It graduates more than 75 percent of the African American veterinarians in the world and is the only HBCU with a fully accredited College of Veterinary Medicine offering a doctoral degree.

Tuskegee is also the largest producer of Black graduates in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

According to The Huntsville Times, since Rochon resigned last year, Matthew Jenkins, former head of the university's fundraising foundation and a 1957 veterinary medicine graduate from Tuskegee, has served as interim president.

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Tuskegee University Names New President; Among Youngest at HBCUs

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