Dr. Valerie Kinloch Officially Inaugurated as JCSU's 15th President

President Valerie Kinloch with Mace

Announces Upcoming Initiatives and Events for a New Era of Excellence

Charlotte, N.C./April 5, 2024 – Johnson C. Smith University faculty, staff, students and special guests packed the Crown Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center on Friday to witness the official installation of Dr. Valerie Kinloch ’96, as the University’s 15th president.

Kinloch leads JCSU in a chant

After she took the official oath to uphold the constitution of Johnson C. Smith University, Kinloch received her presidential medallion, which dons the names of all of the past presidents of the institution. 

Before delivering her inaugural address, Kinloch took the time to thank everyone who had supported her up to this moment. She dedicated her inauguration to her late father, Louis, as well as her mother Virginia, and her husband, Tom. 

Dr. Kinloch then took to the podium to deliver a rousing speech on the state of diversity, equity and inclusion and her plans to catapult JCSU into a “New Era of Excellence.”

“When I matriculated at Johnson C. Smith University, I took pride in learning about the legacy of JCSU,” she said. “In 2024, I take pride in determining concrete ways of building on that legacy. This ‘New Era of Excellence’ will be marked by those ways.”

Kinloch highlighted the areas she plans to focus on, including rigorous academic engagement, an open dialogue about the identity and future of JCSU and the strategies that will move JCSU from ordinary to extraordinary. 

These include continuing the legacy of building valuable partnerships throughout the city of Charlotte and beyond that will provide students with experiential learning opportunities and serve as a pipeline to careers around the world.

Kinloch quoted Marian Wright Edelman’s theory of education, which states that “education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than what you found it.”

“Education is freedom, y’all,” enthused Kinloch, a Charleston native. “Education is freedom and we are free here at Johnson C. Smith University.”

Kinloch made three special announcements during her inaugural address. The first was the unveiling of the Presidential Ambassador Program. This program will initially engage 15 alumni of JCSU who are interested in assisting the University in enrollment and retention efforts.

Chabot College MOU Signing
Cooks, center, steps aside so Kinloch can sign the MOU between JCSU and Chabot College. Photo by Joshua Nypaver.

The second announcement included the live signing of a memorandum of understanding with Chabot College, a community college in Hayward, Calif. The college’s president, Dr. Jamal A. Cooks, was in attendance and came to the stage to sign the agreement. 

This agreement is set to create a pipeline between the two institutions, bringing Chabot College graduates to JCSU to complete their four-year degrees. There are no HBCUs in California, so this historical agreement is poised to bring many students from the West coast to the hallowed halls of JCSU.

According to Dr. Kinloch, “the new partnership with JCSU and Chabot College in California will allow transfer students a pathway into JCSU from the two-year college there to our University in Charlotte.”  
 Dr. Kinloch is focused on growth.  In her words, “this is important because it is one indication of how we can expand our reach.  We can think about what people are doing in states like California, how we can actually have a mark in the state of California.”

Finally, Kinloch announced the 2024 Commencement speaker, Georgia Sen. Rev. Raphael G. Warnock. Warnock is a Morehouse College graduate who serves as the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the former pulpit of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was elected to office in 2021, becoming the first Black senator from the state of Georgia, and the first Black Democrat elected to the Senate from a Southern state. You can read more about the Commencement speaker announcement online. 

Kinloch ended her address with a number of hopes for the future, including positively contributing to Black communities, engaging in national and global discussion around Liberal Arts, enhancing academic offerings, increasing the endowment and leading trends in higher education, among others.
“We belong in every space we enter,” said Kinloch. “We have been cultivated at JCSU to know that our value and our brilliance matter.”

The ceremony included special greetings from a number of elected officials, including Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, Councilman Malcolm Graham ’85 and Rep. Alma Adams.

“Today, we celebrate the remarkable legacy and boundless future of JCSU under the leadership of Dr. Kinloch,” said Lyles. “On behalf of the city of Charlotte, I extend my congratulations.”

“I’m biased,” added Adams, “but its always nice to see a woman in charge.”

Students Present Check to Kinloch at Inauguration
SGA members present Kinloch with a check for the President's Gap Scholarship. Photo by Joshua Nypaver.

Tantamount to the ceremony was Charles C. Lucas III, the chair of the board at The Duke Endowment, which has a strong historical relationship with JCSU, having assisted in funding many of the foundational facilities and programs on campus.

“Mr. Duke believed higher education and religion were drivers for civilization,” said Lucas. “He was a builder. I believe that he would be so proud of what JCSU has built. We at the Duke Endowment support Dr. Kinloch’s passion for changing lives, and we are very glad she decided to return to JCSU.”

The inauguration also featured a special ancestral prayer from Dr. Dywanna E. Smith, assistant professor in the School of Education at Claflin University, and performances by the JCSU Concert Choir under the direction of Dr. Shawn-Allyce White.

The student body also presented Kinloch with a check for more than $2,000 to go toward the President's Gap Scholarship.

As JCSU embarks on its “New Era of Excellence,” the words of JCSU alumna Sharika Comfort ’12 in her inaugural poem set an attitude of expectancy for great things for the future of Charlotte’s only HBCU.

“We are fortunate to see history unfolding,” she mused, “and of course, it will be golden.”


Watch the Inauguration Ceremony

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