Morehouse College Celebrates the Life of Dr. Tobe Johnson

Morehouse College is honoring the late Dr. Tobe Johnson, professor emeritus and Morehouse’s longest-serving faculty member, having been associated with the school for more than 70 years as student, alum, faculty and administrator. Johnson died last week.

Dr. Tobe JohnsonJohnson 

Johnson taught at the school for 59years as Avalon professsor and chair of the political science department.  He retired in 2018.

Among his students was Jeh Johnson, who would become the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Randall L. Woodfin, the  youngest mayor ever elected in Birmingham, Ala., and Maynard H. Jackson Jr., Atlanta’s first Black mayor.

October 21, 2019, was proclaimed Dr. Tobe Johnson Day in the city of Atlanta.

Johnson became the first Black person to receive a Ph.D. in government (political science) from Columbia University.

He ran one of the only Peace Corps volunteer training programs in the South and was an Air Force veteran.


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Washington and Lee University to Decide on Potential Name Change in June

Washington and Lee University announced last week that it will decide on whether it will change its name in June, WSLS reported.

This decision comes after a debate that started late last year regarding the school’s name. Some argued that changing its name would improve campus diversity and create a welcoming environment.

The school has had several name changes in its almost 300 years of existence.

The private liberal arts university said it has received more than 14,000 survey responses, thousands of letters and many conversations with focus groups.


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Preserving the Past and Building the Future: Meet Historian Rhonda Gonzales

Dr. Rhonda Gonzales has one eye on the past and the other on the future.

As a professor and chair of the Department of History at the University of Texas, San Antonio (UTSA), Gonzales is passionate about sharing the diverse histories and cultures of societies in pre-colonial Africa for future generations.

Africa’s stories and cultures before colonialism typically are not taught at the K-12 level, Gonzales says, meaning students rarely learn about the “depth of [Africa’s] history, not just from the origins of humankind and its diversity, but also the breadth and complexity of achievements of people who populated the continent and built societies.”

Dr. Rhonda Gonzales

Through her research, however, she works to recover those rich histories.

In 2008, she authored Societies, Religion, and History: Central East Tanzanians and the World They Created, highlighting the vibrant, prosperous — but often forgotten — societies of early Tanzania. In 2018, she co-authored Bantu Africa: 3500 BCE to Present, exploring the complex history of the Bantu languages and Bantu region of Africa, an area larger than the United States. And, to top it all off, she is co-author of the forthcoming book Family Before Gender: History in Central and Eastern Africa.

Yet, despite carrying a heavy research load, Gonzales isn’t sequestered to her books. She’s a vocal leader and active administrator, too, who’s not only passionate about how we understand the past, but also about how we envision the future.

“What ties all of my thinking about the world and people — whether it’s first-generation students … or people’s histories thousands of years ago — is my belief that we have to support both the production of representation in the past and also be part of creating systems that reflect our diversity and can serve to retain our students, faculty, staff and administration in ways that inspire and empower their successes,” says Gonzales, who was a first-generation student herself.

At UTSA, she’s served in various administrative roles, from interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences to interim vice president for student success and associate vice provost for strategic initiatives. This July, however, she’ll close her 17-year chapter of working at UTSA to become dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Denver.

But as she prepares for her journey to the University of Denver, she leaves behind a lengthy legacy of championing women and first-generation students at UTSA.

Among her many accomplishments is UTSA’s Women’s Professional Advancement and Synergy Academy, which she founded in 2011. Inspired by the HER Academy, she wanted to provide affordable career development and relationship building for women in both faculty and staff roles at UTSA. Today, the academy features career development panels, lectures and workshops and, so far, has graduated nearly 100 women.

Gonzales has also been instrumental in creating UTSA’s First Generation and Transfer Student Center, which employs an entire staff dedicated to supporting the needs of the school’s 11,000 first-generation students and transfer students. “I believe we might be pretty unique, being the first university to have founded a first-generation and transfer students center,” says Gonzales, who is also a 2020-21 Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities La Academia de Liderazgo Fellow.

Additionally, when it comes to forward-thinking initiatives and research projects, Gonzales is no stranger to finding long-term grant money.

“One of the benefits of envisioning and implementing these long-running grants that we’ve acquired, and that I’ve been able to write and be awarded with, is that it gives the institution enough time to recognize the value [the programs] add to the institution and to the student experience,” says Gonzales. “It’s hard to show outcomes in a year or two, but if you can get five years out of something that gives enough time for the institution.”

Her most recent grant was awarded in January by the Andrew Mellon Foundation. It’s a three-year, $5 million grant to support the university’s Democratizing Racial Justice project, which partners with local community members to address racism, inequality and injustice within democracy and civil society.

Just how is she able to balance research, teaching and administrative duties? She says collaboration in historical research plays a big role.

“Time is finite for all of us, so it became apparent to me that to do all these things, to have multiple interests, one of the things I have done to facilitate my work is build collaborative research,” says Gonzales, who adds that collaboration among historians is unique. Typically, she says people imagine “the singular person … a man wearing a monocle at his desk or in archives, writing.”

While that type of research is fine, she says it’s not ideal for every research project, especially interdisciplinary ones.

“I always encourage students to bring their perspectives, whether it’s a singular perspective, or collaborative perspective, because we won’t know unless somebody is courageous enough to push the boundaries of the status quo,” says Gonzales. ” … It’s about paving the past for a future and to do that, we need to be actively engaged.”

This article originally appeared in the May 13, 2021 edition of Diverse. Read it here.

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Women Advancing in the Academy, Offers Hope for Gender Equity

In recent weeks, a number of women have been elevated to top leadership posts at colleges and universities across the nation, signaling a dramatic shift across the higher education landscape that at one time, was exclusively dominated by men.

Experts acknowledge that the fight for gender equity in leadership posts across higher education is far from over, but they say that they are encouraged that women are breaking the glass ceiling and advancing into prominent roles on campuses across the country. The fact that women of color are among that group is increasingly encouraging, particularly at a time when some have expressed concerns about the rising number of Black women, more specifically, who are leaving academe in droves.

Dr. Renée T. White

“The numbers are not where we need them to be, but thankfully, they are not where they used to be,” said Naomi Scott, an educational researcher whose scholarship focuses on women in the academy. “Albeit slowly, progress is being made. These most recent appointments signal that colleges and universities are recognizing the significant contributions that women are making to advancing higher education and are being rewarded for their hard work and diligence.”

The University of Maryland College Park recently announced that Dr. Jennifer King Vice—currently the dean of UMD’s College of Education and professor of education policy—would be the school’s next senior vice president and provost.

“It is an honor to be selected as Provost at the University of Maryland, a place and community that I love and am proud to serve,” said Rice. “With our president’s overarching commitment to excellence in all that we do, we are seizing a moment of great potential to contribute to our state and broader society in new and innovative ways. I look forward to partnering with stellar academic colleagues and administrators to cultivate a diverse and inclusive environment where everyone has the opportunity to fully participate and succeed.”

Last week, The New School announced that Dr. Renée T. White, currently the provost and professor of sociology at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, will be the university’s next provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. An accomplished higher education administrator and scholar on race, gender, and social inequality, White will begin at The New School August 1, 2021. She will serve alongside Dr. Dwight McBride, a prominent literary scholar who marked his one-year anniversary as president of The New School last month.

There have also been other notable appointments too.

Dr. Khalilah Brown-Dean, a professor of political science at Quinnipiac University, was recently named the new associate provost for faculty affairs, a position that was designed to strengthen faculty-related functions and activities.

“Khalilah has been a highly effective and forward-looking leader in her 10 years at QU,” Dr. Debra J. Liebowitz wrote in a letter to faculty. “She is committed to thinking holistically about faculty experience, support, research and development.”

Brown-Dean, the author of Identity Politics in the United States said that she was humbled by the opportunity.

Dr. Khalilah Brown-Dean

“The value of our faculty is more than what we produce or the positions we hold; our value rests on who we are and how we are empowered to build personally and professionally,” she said. “Affirming this requires structuring university-wide endeavors to encourage more unified expectations and experiences across departments, schools, and faculty lines. The Strategic Plan’s emphasis on creating an inclusive, excellence-driven community closely aligns with my own interests and strengths, and I look forward to meeting the significant demands required of this critical new position.”

There were a string of other women appointed to leadership roles at colleges and universities, including Dr. Barbara Wilson, who was named president of University of Iowa. The University of Redlands has appointed Dr. Krista L. Newkirk as its first female president, and Chippewa Valley Technical College announced that Dr. Sunem Beaton-Garcia will be their new president. Beaton-Garcia is the first woman and first Latina to serve as president.

“Progress does not happen overnight,” said Scott, who added that she was encouraged by the appointment of more women to leadership posts and suspects that the trend will continue. “Now, however, is not the time for us to become complacent. We need to work to make sure that more women are advancing into leadership positions inside of the academy. That is critically important.”

Walter Hudson can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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