Wilberforce names new president


WILBERFORCE — Wilberforce University named Dr. Vann R. Newkirk as its 23rd president, the school announced Tuesday morning.

Newkirk will assume the presidency in July, succeeding Dr. Elfred Anthony Pinkard, who announced his retirement as president in March 2022.

“I am honored and excited to be joining the Wilberforce University community,” Newkirk said. “As an HBCU graduate, I also understand the transformative power of these institutions and I look forward to working with the talented faculty, staff, and students at Wilberforce to continue the university’s legacy of excellence. Our students are young people who have dreams and aspirations when they come to us. We have to guide them to the right kind of career paths.”

Newkirk brings a wealth of experience and has a sterling reputation in higher education, having served in various leadership roles at several institutions, WU said in a release. He presently serves as an interim associate vice president at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, and he is a former president of the historic Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to his presidential appointment at Fisk, Newkirk also served as that university’s provost and vice president of academic affairs.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Newkirk to Wilberforce University,” said Board of Trustees Chair Mark Wilson. “His experience, vision, and commitment to educating our students make him the ideal choice to lead our university into the future.”

Throughout his career, the Elizabethtown, North Carolina native has built and managed off-campus degree programs, and he has enhanced the administration of institutional research. He said his first priority for Wilberforce is to engage community supporters who can assist in the university’s fund-raising efforts. This, he said, will facilitate premium academic programs and add value to the university’s distinction among nationally ranked liberal arts colleges.

Currently, Newkirk is writing a history of African Americans in Alabama. In one of his works, “New Life for Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” he writes to improve the long term viability of HBCUs is by identifying their challenges and models of success and exploring their management systems. A noted historian, he has written extensively on crime and punishment in North Carolina. He has also authored the 2008 seminal work, “Lynching in North Carolina,” which won the 2009 Willie Parker History Award for the best non-fiction study of North Carolina.

Newkirk attended North Carolina A&T University and received his undergraduate degree in sociology from Barber-Scotia College. He holds a master of arts degree in history from Winthrop University, a master of science degree from North Carolina Central University, and a doctor of philosophy in history from Howard University.

Newkirk has three adult children, Vann R. Newkirk, II (Kerone), Dr. Cassandra Newkirk, and Richard Newkirk.

Wilberforce also expressed “heartfelt appreciation” for Pinkard’s dedicated service to the university.

“His sound leadership during a global health crisis is one of his many contributions that will not be forgotten, and his legacy will continue to inspire and influence the future of this great institution for generations to come,” officials said.

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