UNCF’s General Counsel Receives Higher Education Leadership Foundation’s 2022 Vanguard Award

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Desireé C. Boykin honored for her leadership and influence on the continued excellence of HBCUs


UNCF today announced that Desireé C. Boykin, Esq. was recently awarded the Higher Education Leadership Foundation’s (H.E.L.F) 2022 Vanguard Award and was inducted into the foundation’s Sankofa Hall of Leadership. Boykin is UNCF’s senior vice president, general counsel and secretary of the corporation.

“We believe it is important to honor those who are strengthening the bridge to sustainability and thriving that our ancestors so carefully built and curated,” the foundation stated when making the announcement. The foundation uses as its guiding principle the word “sankofa,” which is an African word from the Akan tribe in Ghana. The literal translation of the word is “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.”

headshot of Desireé Boykin

Desireé C. Boykin, Esq.

The foundation recognizes individuals for their enduring and undeniable leadership and influence on the continued excellence of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Commenting on her award recognition, Boykin said, “I am so excited and humbled.  Education is paramount in my family and many of us earned our education at an HBCU.  Presidents of these prestigious institutions help make it possible for thousands of deserving students to earn an education and I am incredibly grateful that they chose to recognize my commitment to their success. I am also grateful to my family and my UNCF Team for their support and making this possible.”

Boykin has a law degree from Howard University School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Howard University.

Boykin is among the nation’s leading attorneys in Black higher education and has become a fundraising powerhouse at UNCF. From Fiscal Year 2005 to Fiscal Year 2022, she helped UNCF realize over $137 million in managing its legacy portfolio (testamentary gifts).

In 2017, she was elected UNCF’s secretary of the corporation. Additionally, she practices probate, contracts, employment and nonprofit law.

Since joining UNCF in 2002, Boykin has provided advice and counsel to the UNCF Board of Directors, senior staff and member presidents in the areas of higher education, insurance, constitutional law, intellectual property, corporate compliance and corporate governance.

Boykin assists the board in executing their fiduciary duties. Annually she oversees three board meetings and two member president meetings. Her work on the board’s governance review process led to the creation of a new committee, the Governance Committee.

Prior to joining UNCF, Boykin was an associate attorney at the law office of John Paul Simpkins, where she was responsible for all phases of general civil practice including personal injury, product liability, family law and medical malpractice.

She has numerous professional and civic affiliations, including membership in the National Bar Association, the Greater Washington Area Chapter Women Lawyers Division, Howard University Alumni Association, DC Club and the Howard University School of Law Alumni Association.

In addition to Boykin’s award recognition, the foundation announced the following awards to other HBCU leaders: the Atty. Frank E. Emory, Jr., Trailblazer Award was presented to UNCF-member presidents Suzanne Elise Walsh (Bennett College); Bobbie Knight (Miles College) and Morris Brown College president Kevin James. Also, the Dr. Eugene D. Stevenson, Jr., Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to UNCF-member presidents Ernest McNealey (Allen University) and Lester Newman (Jarvis Christian University).

The awards were presented during the Higher Education Leadership Foundation conference Dec. 8-11 at UNCF-member Wiley University in Marshall, TX.



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. While totaling only 3% of all colleges and universities, UNCF institutions and other historically Black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 13% of bachelor’s degrees, 5% of master’s degrees, 10% of doctoral degrees and 24% of all STEM degrees earned by Black students in higher education. 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.