Dr. David Holmes Swinton may have made history by becoming the longest serving president of Benedict College, but now, Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis is making some history of her own as the first woman to lead the historically Black college in Columbia, S.C., replacing Swinton who officially retired from his post last week after 23 years on the job.
This isn’t the first time that Artis has shattered a glass ceiling.
In 2014, she was named the first female president of Florida Memorial University in Miami after spending a year as its interim leader. Prior to her arrival at FMU, Artis was provost of Mountain State University and had an established legal career before joining academe.
“I am humbled and grateful and very, very excited,” said Artis in a phone interview with Diverse. She said that her although her time at FMU was wonderful, she is now ready to “take the same skills and talents to a similar and larger environment
Dr. Marybeth Gasman, the director of the Center for Minority Serving Institutions and the Judy & Howard Berkowitz professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania said that she does not know Artis well but is “happy to see more women leading HBCUs.”
A rising star among college presidents, she was reportedly a finalist for the presidency at Jackson State University. During her tenure at FMU, she has been credited with advancing bold initiatives to support student success through bridge programs, international education and STEM, said Dr. Ivory A. Toldson, the former executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“President Roslyn Clark Artis is a visionary leader who knows how to innovate programs and connect academics to service,” said Toldson, who is currently the President at Quality Education for Minorities and a full professor in the School of Education at Howard University. “She is an example of the fresh leadership that will be necessary for the future viability of HBCUs.”
In announcing their appointment, the trustees at Benedict pointed to Artis’ track record over the past few years.
“As President of Florida Memorial College, she led an unprecedented academic innovation of several programs, expansion of online programs, and developed new majors in high-demand fields,” said the trustees in a statement released by the college. “Since assuming the presidency in 2013, unrestricted gifts increased 20 percent; restricted gifts increased by 38 percent, and revenue from grants and sponsored research increased by 22 percent.”
Lezli Baskerville, president and CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), said that the college made a wise decision in choosing Artis to replace Swinton.
“I think she’s the right person for the season,” said Baskerville, who added that in the four years that Artis has been at the university she has been able to establish new partnerships, raise dollars and establish a new science and health and wellness center on campus. “I think she will do an exemplary job. Roslyn Clark Artis is well positioned to take the university to the next level of greatness and I’m excited for her and excited for the future of Benedict.”
A graduate of West Virginia State University, Artis earned a law degree from West Virginia University College of Law and a doctorate in higher education leadership and policy from Vanderbilt University.
She said that Swinton’s longevity at the institution ensured that there was “sustained leadership” at a time when many other HBCUs have experienced high presidential turnover.
Artis is scheduled to begin the new post on Sept. 1.
Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson