NCCU installs first female chancellor

Posted April 4, 2014

— More than a year after she was selected as North Carolina Central University's first female chancellor, Debra Saunders-White was officially installed Friday morning in a ceremony on the Durham campus.

The ceremony, which was held at McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium, comes more than 10 months after Saunders-White, a former U.S. Department of Education official, took the reins at N.C. Central.

"There is not a doubt in my mind, that Debra Saunders-White is the right person to lead North Carolina Central University today and in the years ahead," University of North Carolina President Tom Ross said.

The 58-year-old previously worked as assistant provost for technology and vice president for technology and chief information officer at Hampton University and later as vice chancellor and interim associate provost at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Before entering higher education administration, Saunders-White spent 15 years in the corporate sector.

"She is a team builder," Hampton University President William Harvey said. "She posses a truly uncanny ability to match cause with capability."

A Hampton, Va., native, Saunders-White earned her bachelor's degree in history in 1979 from the University of Virginia, where she was a DuPont Scholar. She earned a master's of business administration from the College of William & Mary in 1993 and a doctorate in higher education administration from George Washington University in 2004.

She is the first generation in her family to earn a college degree, and her mother, son and daughter held the family Bible as she took her oath of office.

"Are (historically black colleges) still relevant? Can and should they survive? My response to you Eagles is absolutely. They must survive. North Carolina Central University must lead the way," she said. "We ask our students to be fearless. We ask our students to use their intellect to create new thoughts."

Saunders-White announced three new initiatives for N.C. Central on Friday:

  • Grammy Award-winning producer and social activist Patrick Douthit – who goes by the performance name 9th Wonder – will help establish the NCCU Hip-Hop Institute in the Department of Music. The institute will examine how hip-hop has influenced society and evolved as an art form.
  • The university will partner with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to launch a media lab on the campus in Durham. The lab will provide training for students interested in science and technology careers.
  • The School of Education has partnered with Beijing Cultural and Language University. Saunders-White will lead a delegation to China this month to sign a memorandum of understanding with the school, and the collaboration will focus on student-faculty exchanges, joint research and educational programs.

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  • "Screen Name-8/20" Apr 4, 2014

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    Maybe equality exists in your life pal, but it surely doesn't exist in the life of everyone else in the US - especially not women and minorities who often make less, sometimes far less, than males performing the same jobs.

  • N Diana Bobbitt Apr 4, 2014
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    Congratulations to Chancellor Debra Saunders-White. May she lead NCCU honorably into the future for the students who attend there. Of course you aren't going to say anything constructive if you don't understand the journey she has had to make in order to arrive at this place, you won't understand the sense of accomplishment. You don't get any more out of an educational opportunity than the effort you put into it. If you haven't met the staff there, you shouldn't speak of it. If you have never watched the struggle made to overcome the odds, then you shouldn't speak of it. Here is a woman who earned her education and has gained an accomplishment which can set an example for others to follow. I think she deserves the headline and the article. It is refreshingly different than robberies and killings and traffic reports. Allow her this moment and make the world just a little better by keeping the naysaying for another day.

  • sendusmessage Apr 4, 2014

    Really getting bored with every little first black this, first woman that, first Hispanic something. We're America, we've moved beyond that... The news media needs to get with the century...

  • CherryDarling Apr 4, 2014

    The NCCU Hip-Hop Institute in the Department of Music??? Seriously??? They couldn't think of better programs to get up and running? Or to use this time, energy and money to get the programs they already have and make them even better?

  • "Screen Name-8/20" Apr 4, 2014

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    Why does her race matter? She's qualified, right. That's all that SHOULD matter.

  • Kenny Dunn Apr 4, 2014
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    Agreed. Let's celebrate this step for a very fine institution. There will another day for other "firsts".

  • spoonman Apr 4, 2014

    "Take that farming degree from NCSU and ECU"

    you taking the high road on this one or not?

  • James Scandrick Apr 4, 2014
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    That would be newsworthy, it would get as much press if NCSU and Clemson, made a black woman, their first chancellor. There are many ways to get news, and shock the system. NCCU has made a great step for the students, faculty, and university, how bout we all lets appreciate that accomplishment first.

  • "Screen Name-8/20" Apr 4, 2014

    About time!!!
    When one considers the number of foreign countries that have female leaders and the US has yet to have a single one, one can't help but wonder if the US is as wise or as civilized as it thinks it is.

  • Mark Aman Apr 4, 2014
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    I think if NCCU installed it's first chancellor of another race that would be many times more newsworthy......