Dr. Christopher B. Howard, currently the president of Hampden-Sydney College, has been named the eighth president of Robert Morris University.
Howard, 46, a decorated Air Force veteran, will take the helm of RMU in February.
“I’m extraordinarily honored and humbled,” Howard said in an interview with Diverse. “Robert Morris University is a catalyst for the economy and region.”
Howard was on the campus of the Pittsburgh institution earlier this week with his wife, Barbara, meeting with faculty, staff and students during the university’s annual Fall Mixer.
For years, veteran presidents have called Howard a rising star and have pointed to his military background and his early career at General Electric and Bristol-Myers Squibb, as someone whose trajectory toward the college presidency was untraditional.
Since becoming president of Hampden-Sydney College in 2009, Howard was consistently praised for helping to grow enrollment and retention at the small liberal arts college for men located in Virginia. During his tenure at the college, alumni giving reached 33 percent, and he was instrumental in helping to procure the largest financial gift in the college’s 240-year history.
“The Search Committee was impressed with the way Dr. Howard was able to build on the traditions of his current institution and translate those traditions to contemporary and more diverse populations,” said Richard Harshman, vice chair of the RMU board of trustees and chair of the presidential search committee. “He expressed early insights on how RMU’s distinctive culture and core values can foster an even stronger common bond between students and graduates of different eras and demographics. This will be essential as RMU continues to evolve in order to achieve its next level of success.”
Gary Claus, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, praised Howard’s selection, calling him a “charismatic and visionary leader” with experience both within and outside higher education.
“He has experience with and insights into different models of education, from Ivy Leagues to large publics, from small, liberal arts institutions to military academies. And, on the more personal side, his own background reflects the character and values we see in RMU’s students and alumni.”
Prior to becoming president of Hampden-Sydney College, Howard was vice president for leadership and strategic initiatives at the University of Oklahoma. A graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, he earned an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a doctorate in politics from Oxford University while on a Rhodes Scholarship.
Howard replaces Dr. Gregory G. Dell, who left RMU in June to become the president of Rider University in New Jersey. RMU’s provost, David Jamison, has been serving as acting president since June.
He said that he hopes that his appointment will inspire other African-Americans to realize that they too can become a college president if they so desired.
“There is something very human and captivating about that,” Howard said about his role as a mentor to others coming up behind. “I take that as a serious, serious charge.”
Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at [email protected]. You can follow him on twitter @jamalericwatson