By: Johnson C. Smith University

Charlotte, N.C. – Johnson C. Smith University’s Board of Trustees announced today the selection of Dr. Valerie Kinloch as the university’s 15th president, effective Aug. 1, 2023.

Kinloch is a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University (‘96) and a member of its Board of Trustees, giving her deep insight into the strengths and challenges of the 156-year-old college, founded to serve formerly enslaved Black people and now educating more than 1,100 students annually with 22 degree programs, including a Master’s in social work.

Kinloch currently serves as Dean of the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh, where she oversees 300 full- and part-time faculty and staff, and nearly 1,000 students. She has led academic transformation, recruited top faculty, exceeded fundraising goals, overhauled operations, and overseen more than $9 million in capital projects and renovations. Previously, she held positions as associate dean and professor at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and as a faculty member at Teachers College-Columbia University in New York City and at the University of Houston-Downtown.

“It’s a dream come true to be invited to lead one of the finest Historically Black Colleges and Universities in America – and at the same time come home,” Kinloch said. “My years at JCSU were some of the best of my life. This university set me on course to grow beyond anything I could imagine, so it is incredibly gratifying to return and give back to the institution that helped make me who I am.”

Kinloch was the board of trustees’ unanimous choice. Chairman Steven Boyd said he has been impressed by Kinloch’s work as a board member over the past two years, and was thrilled when she decided to pursue the presidency.

“Valerie’s proven leadership, deep background in academia, and intimate knowledge of Johnson C. Smith University gives her the expertise and credibility to continue our transformation,” Boyd said. “She is a dynamic leader and change agent pure and simple. She will help us continue to elevate the quality of education we provide as we deliver on our promise to mold the next generation of leaders for this community and beyond.”

A native of Charleston, S.C., Kinloch succeeds Clarence D. Armbrister, who successfully led the university for more than five years, through the pandemic and other challenges to new heights. He helped raise the university’s public profile and secured the single largest financial commitment of more than $80 million through the Mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative to help fund the strategic plan adopted by the board in 2021.

Kinloch wants to build on the university’s growing community support and raise its national profile with students, families, and funders by “telling the stories” of all the inspiring work happening at Johnson C. Smith. She also will look inward to reimagine academic offerings, elevate faculty and staff, increase alumni engagement, and “keep students at the center of everything” the university does.

“We need to make space for innovation and for different types of learning – not just inside of classrooms but also through internships, experiential engagements, and job placements with businesses, organizations and community groups with whom we have deep relationships,” Kinloch said. “We have to support critical thinking and provide an education that prepares students for the careers they want and that the community needs. We also have to encourage students to pursue even higher forms of education.”

Kinloch holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Literature from JCSU as well as a master’s in English/African American Literature and a doctorate in English, both from Wayne State University in Detroit. Her research, which focuses on the literacies of Black people in urban and rural contexts, examines equitable forms of teaching, learning, and leading. She has published nine books, countless essays/articles, and has received multiple awards and grants. Recently, Education Week named her to its 2023 list of the nation’s most influential scholars, and she also successfully served as President of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Kinloch, a Lifetime Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., loves swimming, hiking and reading/writing poetry, and has special interest in spoken word and “found” poetry. She and her husband, Tom A’Hearn, will move to Charlotte this summer and are looking forward to getting to know the city, creating partnerships, and enjoying the comfort of Southern cooking.

Effective July 1, Chairman Boyd, a former Coca-Cola executive, will resign his trustee post to serve as interim president until Dr. Kinloch’s start date Aug 1. In his welcome letter to Kinloch, Boyd emphasized her stellar past and promising future.

“Congratulations Madam President. You have once again demonstrated the power and promise of JCSU,” he wrote. “I could not be more excited and optimistic about the future of Johnson C. Smith under your leadership and look forward to working with you as we create the future for the institution that we love so dearly.”

Please direct media inquiries to Sherri Belfield, senior director of University Communications and Marketing, sbelfield@jcsu.edu.

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