Apr 5, 2024 - Education

Johnson C. Smith University celebrates new president

Johnson C. Smith University new president Valerie Kinloch speaks at her inauguration.

Johnson C. Smith University's new president Valerie Kinloch addresses the crowd at her inauguration. Photo: Michael Graff/Axios

Johnson C. Smith showered new president Valerie Kinloch with praise and music and even poetry in a rousing inauguration ceremony Friday morning.

Why it matters: Kinloch, a 1996 JSCU alum, becomes the 157-year-old university's 15th president at a time when Charlotte business and philanthropic leaders have committed to making JCSU one of the country's top historically black colleges and universities.

  • Charlotte mayor Vi Lyles, U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, Bank of America's Charlotte President Kieth Cockrell, and city council member Malcolm Graham all delivered remarks.

The latest: Kinloch also delivered a bit of news — U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock from Georgia will be JCSU's 2024 commencement speaker next month.

What she said: During a passionate inaugural address, Kinloch led students in the familiar call and response of "JC! … SU!" and proclaimed "a new era of excellence."

  • She had to pause and collect herself at one point when she considered her path here. She'd come to JCSU as a first-generation college student from Charleston in 1992, she said, and now she was back "in 2024 as president … as president … let me pause right there."
  • Then she looked over at the students and around the room and smiled: "I'm your president, y'all."

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