With A Loving Embrace, Howard University Formally Installs Ben Vinson III as 18th President

By Sholnn Z. Freeman

On Saturday, November 4, Ben Vinson III, Ph.D., was inaugurated as Howard University’s 18th president, a vibrant and historic occasion that saw him showered in African American 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. He spoke about research, scholarship, creativity, hiring world-class faculty and cultivating the faculty experience. At the ceremony, Board of Trustees Chairman Laurence C. Morse (B.A. ‘73) and Vice Chairs Leslie D. Hale (B.B.A ‘94) and Mark A. L. Mason (B.B.A. ‘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, who started his presidency on September 1 after serving as provost and executive vice president at Case Western Reserve University since 2018. “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.”

Vinson is a renowned historian of Latin America, particularly Mexico, and will serve on the Howard faculty as a tenured professor of history.  Vinson comes from an eclectic background. Both parents hail from Alabama and are families of coal miners, sharecroppers, and teachers. Because of his father’s military service, he spent part of his early childhood in Italy.

He pledged to move Howard’s rich legacy forward and repeated his mantra of “Howard at maximum strength,” a refrain that has begun to gain momentum on campus since his arrival.

At the ceremony, Vinson was showered in well wishes, video messages from former Howard University President Emeritus Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, as well as from Vinson’s cousins, Willetha “Toni” Carter and her son Melvin Carter, the first African American mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota.

“Ben, we are so incredibly proud of you,” 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.”

Macalester College President Suzanne M. Rivera, Ph.D. introduced President Vinson before his investiture, sharing memories of their time together while working  at Case Western Reserve University. She described Vinson as brilliant and kind, saying 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.”

Chairman Morse said he has grown increasingly impressed with Vinson’s leadership abilities over the past few months.

“He is confident in his knowledge and expertise but also is a willing and eager student,” Morse said. “While respectful of our history, he is not paralyzed by it. He is determined to grow this University’s rich legacy as we move further into the 21st century.”