Message on President Armbrister's retirement from the Chair of the Board of Trustees

JCSU is indebted to President Armbrister 

Five years ago, as a Johnson C. Smith University Trustee, I served on the search committee for the university’s new president. We conducted an exhaustive, nationwide search and met numerous extremely qualified candidates. Yet as our self-imposed deadline approached, the committee was unable to commit to a single candidate. That was until Clarence D. “Clay” Armbrister walked into the room. That afternoon we conducted a rigorous interview and transitioned into a detailed debrief session. By day’s end, it was clear and unanimous that we had found the 14th President of Johnson C. Smith University.


Over the next five years, the university faced a number of challenges and opportunities. There were financial needs, residence hall issues, and a global pandemic, of course. President Armbrister’s unique skill set, tireless work ethic, financial acumen, and unwavering commitment to the mission and vision of JCSU provided the leadership necessary to overcome these challenges effectively. But slaying these dragons was only a part of his impressive accomplishments. Among other achievements, President Armbrister will forever be recognized for the unprecedented public-private partnerships he established through the Mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative, which resulted in the single largest gift the university has ever received. The $80 million, five-year commitment to support our new strategic business plan has positioned the university to elevate its standing in the Charlotte community and the world of higher education, to one of the most influential and consequential HBCU’s in the nation.


Today, as we announce President Armbrister’s retirement and begin the transition to the next phase of our transformation, we celebrate his many accomplishments and commit as a Board to continue and complete the journey and vision established by President Armbrister, to become a Top 10 HBCU. We’ll get there by following the plan President Armbrister and the Board hammered out in 2021 and have already begun to put in place. The plan rests on four pillars: strengthening academic excellence, delivering strong career outcomes for students and companies, launching seamless academic pathways in partnership with other institutions from community colleges to graduate-level programs, and improving recruiting and retention of students – many of whom are the first in their families to go to college. You can read more about our blueprint here, and if you do, you’ll see President Armbrister’s fingerprints throughout.


Thank you, President Armbrister, for your leadership and unwavering love of Johnson C. Smith University. You have truly held high the Gold and Blue.


Best Regards,


Steven L. Boyd
Chairman, Board of Trustees
Johnson C. Smith University