NCCU installs first female chancellor

Posted April 4, 2014 10:57 a.m. EDT
Updated April 4, 2014 3:09 p.m. EDT

— 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.