UNCF Recognizes Dr. Billy C. Hawkins for his Years of Transformative Service to UNCF and HBCUs

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Monique LeNoir UNCF Communications 202.810.0231 monique.lenoir@uncf.org

Leaving a legacy of advocacy and impact for the next generation

UNCF (United Negro College Fund) recognizes and celebrates the achievement of one of its own, Dr. Billy C. Hawkins, immediate past president of Talladega College, for his more than two decades of service to support historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Hawkins was also the chair of the UNCF Institutional and Individual Members, a position he held since March 2019, and served as an institutional director on the UNCF Board of Directors since 2014. He recently stepped down from both positions due to health concerns.

During his four decades as an educator, Hawkins took on a wide range of roles as a multi-tasking, high-energy leader who tackled myriad challenges to make a lasting impact on the educational landscape. From the classroom to the administrative office to the governmental chamber, he leaves a legacy of transformative service and indefatigable advocacy that will improve the futures of countless students, among them thousands from HBCUs.

Hawkins began his career as a teacher in the Lansing, MI, Public Schools System. His passion for teaching led him to higher education, where he served in various administrative roles at Mississippi Valley State, Saint Paul’s College, Ferris State University and State University of New York at Morrisville College.

“UNCF and all HBCUs owe a tremendous debt of appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Billy C. Hawkins for the dedication and achievements that have characterized his service as a leader in U.S. higher education. We especially owe him for the work that he did to restore accreditation to Texas College and the extraordinary transformation he produced at Talladega College,” said Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO, UNCF. “Markedly, his record of accomplishments at Talladega College deserves special attention and should be studied by scholars in the field as an example of executive leadership guiding a college from crisis to stabilization—and finally to transformation.”

Hawkins has been president of two UNCF-member HBCUs, serving with a vigorous, engaging style at both Texas College in Tyler, TX, from 2000 to 2007, and at Talladega College in Alabama where he’s been president since 2008.

His impact on both institutions has been felt immensely. During his seven years as president of Texas College, through fundraising efforts and academic rigor, Hawkins became one of the few college presidents to ever get a college fully restored to accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

His term at Talladega College will be forever remembered for its near total rejuvenation of the venerable institution that restored its preeminence and laudability.

When he arrived at Talladega, Hawkins implemented rigorous plans for renovation and growth. He started off with a bang, getting students to attend and support the 45th Talladega College president’s inauguration, which evolved into a significant campaign to raise public awareness and funds. He successfully restructured and stabilized finances as he guided the institution through a 10-year SACSCOC accreditation process.

Other notable achievements during his 13 years at Talladega include:

  • Exponential growth in enrollment. Enrollment grew from 300 students when Hawkins became president to more than 1,200 students now. Remarkably, enrollment doubled from just over 300 students to 601 students in a single semester and the college experienced record-high enrollment in both the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 academic years
  • Multi-million-dollar campus improvement The college’s entire physical plant was upgraded, including:
    • The opening of a 45,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art residence hall in 2019
    • A $4.5 million rehabilitation/restoration of Foster Hall Dormitory, as well as the refurbishing of three other dormitories
    • The restoration and reopening of a classroom building
    • The building of a new police station
    • The openings of a new state-of-the-art student center (named after Hawkins) and the Dr. William R. Harvey Museum of Art, which houses six critically acclaimed Hale Woodruff murals, including the renowned Amistad Murals; to construct the museum for Woodruff’s murals, which are valued at $50 million, Hawkins secured Talladega’s largest-ever financial gift: a $1 million donation from alumnus Dr. William R. Harvey. He also secured a $1.5 million contribution from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and the state of Alabama.
  • Reboot of athletics. Athletic programs were reinstated for the first time in 10 years. Talladega was reinstated to the National Athletic intercollegiate Association (NAIA) and won three national championships in men’s and women’s basketball
  • Top national and regional rankings. The college is listed among the Princeton Review’s best colleges in the Southeast and S. News and World Report’s most innovative colleges
  • 21st-century curriculum additions. New academic programs have been added, including the college’s first-ever graduate program, which is an online master’s degree in computer information systems

Hawkins brought his considerable leadership and talent to other organizations, as well. He is a current member of the NAIA President’s Council and was appointed to serve on the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Capital Financing Advisory Board by former U.S. Secretary of Education, Rod Page.

“Dr. Hawkins proved a rare commodity in today’s society:  someone who could not only put personal partisan concerns aside, but demand that all others do it also,” said Lodriguez V. Murray, senior vice president, public policy and government affairs, UNCF. “He was an inspirational and driving force behind UNCF’s approach over the last four years to secure meaningful outcomes by bringing political parties together to support HBCUs and their first-generation and low- to moderate-income students.

“The deferments we achieved in 2018 turned into debt relief for 45 HBCUs. That along with relief funds following COVID-19 are all hallmarks of an approach he inspired and has helped benefit so many,” Murray added.

Hawkins’ service with the UNCF has left an indelible impact on all 37 of the organization’s member institutions, according to Milton H. Jones Jr., chair, UNCF Board of Directors.

“As an energetic mover and shaker, Dr. Hawkins has used his years of experience to strengthen UNCF’s 37 member institutions as the chair of the members. His tireless efforts during the current COVID-19 health pandemic—to reach out to fellow HBCU presidents and voice the concerns of HBCUs to the federal government on a bipartisan basis—ensured that the needs of all HBCUs and the students and communities they serve have been heard,” Jones said. “We thank Dr. Hawkins for his contribution to the significant growth in successful, positive federal policies and legislation on behalf of HBCUs and their students in recent years.”

Hawkins leaves the UNCF-member HBCUs in the capable hands of two exceptional leaders.

Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough serves as vice chair of the UNCF Institutional and Individual Members and has worked within the UNCF network for 17 years. He served as president of UNCF-member HBCU Philander Smith University for seven years and is current president of UNCF-member Dillard University. Under his leadership, Dillard has experienced an increase in its retention and graduation rates, as well as a 115% increase in its endowment and has secured a 10-year reaccreditation from SACSCOC.

Dr. George T. French Jr., who was named the fifth president of UNCF-member Clark Atlanta University (CAU) in 2019, serves as secretary of the UNCF Institutional and Individual Members. During his tenure at CAU, French has delivered exceptional fundraising; maintained stable enrollment during a pandemic; and positioned the university for unprecedented growth through corporate and community relationships. Prior to CAU, he was president at UNCF-member Miles College for 14 years.

“All of us at UNCF will miss Dr. Hawkins’ leadership as the chair of our Institutional and Individual Members and as vice chair of our Board of Directors. We wish him all the best as he addresses the health issues which prompted his early retirement from Talladega. We look forward to celebrating his service at our 78th anniversary annual dinner and gala in Washington, DC, in March 2022,” Lomax added.


About UNCF

UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, supports and strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically Black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20% of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, ‟A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”® Learn more at UNCF.org or for continuous updates and news, follow UNCF on Twitter at @UNCF.