DURHAM N.C.— An Obama administration official is the new chancellor at North Carolina Central University.
Debra Saunders-White was named Friday as the 11th leader of the historically Black university in Durham. Saunders is currently the deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs at the U.S. Department of Education. She will assume her new duties June 1.
The 57-year-old Virginia native will replace former Chancellor Charlie Nelms, who retired in August.
Saunders-White worked for 15 years as a systems engineer and marketing official at IBM after earning bachelor’s degree in history in 1979 from the University of Virginia, where she was a DuPont Scholar. She earned a master’s of business administration from The College of William & Mary in 1993 and a doctorate in higher education administration from George Washington University in 2004.
Saunders-White served as the chief information officer at Hampton University and as the vice chancellor for information technology systems at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. From 2007 to 2008, she also served concurrently as UNCW’s interim associate provost in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and as chief diversity officer.
“We can consider this a homecoming of sorts,” UNC system president Tom Ross said. “With her broad experience in business, higher education, and government; her proven integrity and sound judgment; and her profound understanding of the changing marketplace in which our students must compete, Dr. Saunders-White will be a forceful and effective leader for NCCU. We are delighted to bring her back to North Carolina.”
Founded in 1910, NCCU was the nation’s first public liberal arts college for African-Americans and later became one of the 17 campuses included in the University of North Carolina system. NCCU has about 8,400 students.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan applauded her selection to lead the university.
“As a first-generation college graduate herself, Deb truly understands both the opportunity that higher education provides and the challenges that so many of our nation’s young people face in accessing and affording college,” Duncan said. “She has worked tirelessly to expand access to resources that have opened doors for millions of students across the country, and her leadership has furthered our department’s efforts to ensure that more young people have the chance to go to college.”