DOVER — Delaware State University President Dr. Tony Allen has been named chairperson of President Joe Biden's advisory board on historically Black colleges and universities.
The President's Board of Advisors works directly with the White House Initiative on HBCUs, which has been in existence since Jimmy Carter established the initiative in 1980.
Dr. Allen, who holds a doctorate in urban affairs and public policy from the University of Delaware, said in a news release that he was honored by the opportunity.
“I am humbled to Chair the President’s Board of Advisors for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (PBA) because this President knows firsthand the unmistakable value of HBCUs to our country and the more than 350,000 students we graduate each year, representing nearly 20% of all Black graduates in the country. He is also aware of the economic engines our institutions are in their home communities, generating $17 billion in GDP each year,” he said in a statement.
In the release, the White House said the "Biden-Harris Administration is committed to supporting the vital mission of HBCUs."
"Through the American Rescue Plan and by forgiving capital improvement debt of many these institutions, the Biden-Harris Administration has already committed more than $4 billion in support," the release stated. "Reestablishing the White House HBCU Initiative — and placing strong leadership at the head of the Board — will allow the administration to build on that financial commitment with continued institutional support."
PBA’s charge is to provide direct counsel to the administration regarding the critical needs of HBCUs and advocate at the highest levels for legislative, regulatory and funding solutions to the challenges facing the sector, according to the statement. The advisory board issues an annual federal plan to the president that includes support from federal government and recommendations on how to increase the private sector's role in strengthening the HBCU community.
One of the first areas of focus for the advisory board will be continuing to build support for the passage of the bipartisan Institutional Grants for New Infrastructure, Technology and Education at HBCUs Act (IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act). Sponsored by Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., as well as Reps. Alma Adams, D-N.C., and French Hill, R-Ark., IGNITE would represent a sectorwide strategic federal investment in the HBCUs, officials said.
“The IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act will modernize campuses across the country — ensuring that HBCUs have the technology, facilities, and resources to continue their transformational work," Sen. Coons said in a prepared statement.
Dr. Allen will succeed Johnny C. Taylor, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management and the former leader of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Mr. Taylor served under the previous adminitration.
Dr. Allen has been president of DSU since January 2020, having previously served as the institution’s executive vice president and provost.
He came to the university from Bank of America, where he led the corporate reputation group and was responsible for ongoing reputation analysis and related research. Dr. Allen also previously served as the co-founder of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League and the Americorps program Public Allies Delaware, a leadership-development organization for young adults ages 18-30.
Dr. Allen started his career in public service as a speechwriter to then-U.S. Sen. Biden and in 2020, was named the chief executive officer of the 59th Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Since starting his tenure as DSU's president, Dr. Allen spearheaded the acquisition of Wesley College; directed DSU's COVID-19 safety protocols; created the Global Institute for Equity, Inclusion and Civil Rights; and raised more than $40 million during the pandemic, officials said.
Dr. Harry Williams, TMCF president and CEO, said he was particularly pleased to learn of Dr. Allen’s appointment.
“Dr. Allen’s executive experience in both the private sector and the higher education space has imbued him with an intimate understanding of the strengths of our institutions; the areas of needed attention and investment; and a unique insight into how the federal government and corporate America alike can partner with our institutions to bridge the divides that exist,” Dr. Williams said.
Dr. Allen said President Biden's administration understands the challenges facing HBCUs.
“From my perspective, the message is clear in word and deed — while representing only 3% of colleges and universities in the country, HBCUs from Toogalou to Howard consistently over-perform by doing more with less," he said. "Now is the time to build sustainable equity in the marketplace and watch our institutions create an even broader pipeline of citizen leaders in every field of human endeavor.”
Dr. Devona Williams, chairperson of the DSU Board of Trustees, said she was gratified by the appointment.
“In my view, HBCUs are best positioned to provide a life-changing education to young people from a wide array of backgrounds and experiences, particularly those from low-resource communities," she said. "The President and the Vice President have a unique perspective for our work, and their actions today and throughout their time in office are clear and compelling."