People on the move: 4 newly installed university leaders take their places

A former politician, a renowned engineer and an intercultural competence expert are among those making higher ed news.
By: | November 17, 2021

Former U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s chief of staff, was named president of the University of South Alabama on Wednesday, beating out two other candidates. Bonner, the only candidate who did not hold an earned doctoral degree, is the younger brother of former University of Alabama President Judy Bonner. Board pro tem Jimmy Shumock said in a statement, “With his leadership, we look forward to the continued elevation of the University of South Alabama’s reputation as a leading academic, research and healthcare institution.” Bonner, who will become the university’s fourth president, will be formally introduced at a trustee meeting on Dec. 2.
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Rice University’s board of trustees has selected Reginald DesRoches, who is currently serving as school provost, to be the university’s next president. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, DesRoches is the first immigrant, first Black man and first engineer to lead the private research university. During his time at Rice, DesRoches has already begun addressing the issue of race, having established the university’s office of diversity, equity and inclusion. He also led the school’s academic, research, scholarly and creative activities throughout the pandemic. The internationally recognized structural engineer and earthquake resilience expert succeeds President David Leebron, who will step down next summer after the 2021-22 academic year ends.


Kimberly Ballard-Washington was officially sworn in as president of Savannah State University during an investiture ceremony last week. Founded in 1890 as the state’s first public historically Black college or university in Georgia, Savannah State was the first higher ed institution in the city. Georgia native Ballard-Washington holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Georgia and a Juris Doctorate from Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University. She practiced law for 20 years in Georgia before serving as interim president in 2019.

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Dayton, Ohio native Tiffany Taylor Smith has been named the new vice president for diversity and inclusion at The University of Dayton. A noted leader in intercultural competence, Taylor Smith served as executive director for inclusive excellence education at UD since 2017 before being named assistant vice president earlier this year. Taylor Smith’s experience also includes serving as president and founder of the consulting and coaching company Culture Learning Partners; as senior manager for diversity and organizational capability for Procter & Gamble; and as a research associate on multicultural issues in counseling at Fordham University.