Ben Vinson III, PhD, was inaugurated as Howard University’s 18th president on November 4, 2023, in a vibrant and historic occasion that showered him in poetry, musical performances, and a stream of tributes from across the academic world.
During his address, Vinson pledged to strengthen Howard University in traditional areas that characterize a top-tier, comprehensive, modern university. Points of emphasis included research, scholarship, creativity, hiring world-class faculty and cultivating the faculty experience. At the ceremony, Board of Trustees chairman Laurence C. Morse (BA ’73) and vice chairs Leslie D. Hale (BBA ’94) and Mark A. L. Mason (BBA ’91), formally installed Vinson into the presidency, presenting him with his ceremonial robe and the official University medallion.
Nearly overcome with emotion, Vinson said he saw “more amazing treasures ahead” for Howard University.
“There are so many institutions where you can get an education, and a good one,” said Vinson. “I am reminded today that here at Howard we are also doing the work of uplift. People come to the Mecca for uplift – uplift of the race, the nation, and the world.”
He pledged to move Howard’s rich legacy forward and repeated his mantra of “Howard at maximum strength,” a refrain that has gained momentum on campus since his arrival.
Throughout the ceremony, Vinson was covered in well wishes, including video messages from Howard University president emeritus Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA; Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser; and Vinson’s cousins, W. Toni Carter and her son Melvin, currently the first African American mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota.
“Ben, we are so incredibly proud of you,” W. Toni Carter said. “You embody the value and pursuit of higher education and teaching your parents instilled in you at an early age. You are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.”
Suzanne M. Rivera, PhD, president of Macalester College, introduced Vinson before his investiture, sharing memories of their time together working at Case Western Reserve University. She described Vinson as brilliant and kind, and said that he embodies Howard’s motto of excellence in truth and service.
“His leadership example is an inspiration to those fortunate enough to absorb his wisdom,” Rivera said. “He is a true believer in the transformative power of higher education and in the importance of expanding access to it as a ladder of opportunity, especially for students who historically have been excluded or overlooked.”
Vinson began his presidency on September 1 after serving as provost and executive vice president at Case Western Reserve University since 2018.
Article ID: 1841
Vinson brings decades of experience in higher education leadership across several universities and scholarship in Afro-Latine research.
Recently named Howard University’s 18th president, Vinson has promised his authentic self in the role. As he completes his first 100 days, we contemplate his journey to The Mecca — and his ambitious vision for its future.