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Howard University Appoints Revered Historian and Academic Leader Ben Vinson III, PhD, as 18th President

Leader in higher education and historian of the African diaspora, with a focus on Latin America spent career dedicated to elevating diversity in education, returns to Washington, D.C.

Ben Vinson III, PhD will serve as Howard University's 18th President

WASHINGTON Ben Vinson III, PhD, an accomplished higher education leader; historian of the African diaspora with a focus on Blacks in Latin America; and the provost, executive vice president, and Hiram C. Haydn professor of history at Case Western Reserve University, has been named the 18th President of Howard University. This marks a return to the Washington, D.C. area for Vinson, who previously served in senior leadership roles at George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University.  

The Howard University Board of Trustees unanimously voted to appoint Vinson, 52, as president of the University, effective September 1, 2023. Vinson will succeed Wayne A. I. Frederick (B.S. ’92, M.D. ’94, MBA ’11), who has served as Howard’s 17th president with longstanding dedication and unwavering commitment since 2014. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Vinson to our community and are confident in his ability to lead our beloved Howard University,” said Laurence C. Morse, PhD (B.A. ’73), chair of the Board. “Dr. Vinson has served in senior leadership roles at some of the nation’s most highly regarded academic research institutions. Both his academic research and the initiatives he’s championed as a higher education leader have demonstrated his commitment to elevating the diversity of experiences of people of the African diaspora – a commitment that aligns well with Howard University’s mission and vision. Under his future leadership, we believe that the University will only strengthen its storied legacy by continuing to embrace and serve our community; being a powerful thought leader on issues of global significance; and engaging in scholarship and practice that puts the voices and experiences of Howard students, faculty, staff, and alumni at the center. Building on our strategic plan, which has guided the University’s current momentum, I believe Dr. Vinson will take Howard University to new heights. On behalf of the Howard community, I would like to extend a sincere welcome to Ben, his wife Yolanda, and their three children.” 

Vinson’s appointment is the culmination of a rigorous, and comprehensive 12-month search, led by the Board-appointed Presidential Search Committee and assisted by the highly esteemed executive search firm Isaacson Miller. The search committee, comprised of faculty, staff, alumni, students, and current and former trustees, brought a rich and diverse set of experiences to the effort. The search committee was tasked with developing criteria to guide the search process, engaging the University community for insights and important considerations, identifying and interviewing potential candidates, and putting forth a formal recommendation to the Board. The entire Howard community was offered the opportunity to participate in this process through a series of listening sessions conducted throughout 2022, as well as an open invitation to provide feedback, suggestions, and questions related to the search, including recommending potential candidates. 

“The opportunity to lead Howard at this historic juncture represents the honor of a lifetime. Howard’s incredible legacy, its remarkable trajectory, combined with the fine talent of its faculty and staff, situate Howard at the uppermost echelons of higher education,” said Vinson. “Combined with the uniquely transformational power of a Howard education, the students, faculty, staff, and alumni constitute a positive force of change in our society. Our world needs Howard at maximum strength. I look forward to returning to the DMV, which I consider home, and working with the broader campus community to fortify Howard and help build upon its incredible tradition of delivering excellence, truth, and service to greater humanity.” 

Ben Vinson speaks at podium

Ben Vinson III PhD, 18th President of Howard University

As president, Vinson will be tasked with inspiring, innovating, and strategically leading the Howard community, including its world-class faculty, incomparable staff, medical institutions, athletics, law, museums, and both undergraduate and graduate students. The University has long held a commitment to the education of traditionally disadvantaged persons in American society and throughout the world with a goal to eliminate inequities related to race or color, or social, economic, and political circumstances. As the nation's top comprehensive predominantly Black university, Vinson will now lead one of the major engines of change in American society.  

“I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Ben Vinson III as the 18th President of Howard University,” said Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, president of Howard University. “His vast experience and proven track record in academic leadership make him the ideal candidate to lead our esteemed institution into the future. I am confident that Howard will continue to thrive under his guidance as a premier center for higher learning and innovation.”  

Most recently, Vinson served as the provost and executive vice president at Case Western Reserve University where he was responsible for all facets of academic and university research. While at Case, Vinson led the university’s “Think Big” strategic planning initiative, which garnered national attention for its innovative and inclusive planning process. He also oversaw the increase of underrepresented minority students in the first-year class (from 17% in 2018 to 25% in 2022). 

He previously served on the faculties of Barnard College and Penn State University before joining Johns Hopkins University as a professor of history and founding director of its Center for Africana Studies. At Johns Hopkins, he went on to serve as a vice dean for centers, interdisciplinary studies, and graduate education before becoming dean of George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. 

Vinson is an accomplished historian of Latin America, and the recipient of the 2019 Howard F. Cline Book Prize in Mexican History for his book, “Before Mestizaje: The Frontiers of Race and Caste in Colonial Mexico.” 

He is board chairman of the National Humanities Center and a board member  of the National Humanities Alliance and of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Additionally, Vinson has served on the Association of American Universities’ (AAU) Advisory Board for Racial Equity in Higher Education and was a member of the AAU subcommittee on faculty advancement and tenure. He was a member of the Academy of Arts and Science’s Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, and currently chairs its subcommittee on higher education. He was elected vice president of the research division of the American Historical Association (AHA) in 2020 and is the immediate past president of the Conference on Latin American History (CLAH). 

Vinson earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College with a double major in history and classical studies, summa cum laude, where he also serves on the advisory board for the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies. He earned a doctorate in Latin American history, with distinction, from Columbia University. He has been awarded fellowships from the Fulbright Commission; National Humanities Center; Social Science Research Council; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and the Ford, Rockefeller, and Mellon foundations.   

Under new leadership, Howard University will maintain its long-held commitment to providing an educational experience of exceptional quality and to producing distinguished global leaders.  

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Media Contact: Frank Tramble, Vice President & Chief Communications Officer for Howard University Frank.tramble@howard.edu 

About Howard University   

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced two Schwarzman Scholars, four Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American PhD recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.