Claflin University introduced its ninth president on Monday.
Harris-Stowe State University President Dr. Dwaun Warmack will lead Claflin following the retirement of longtime president Dr. Henry Tisdale.
“I’m coming behind a living legend,” Warmack said at a press conference.
Tisdale “is a person who has done an amazing job with building, working on this institution, plus he’s an alum here,” Warmack said. “For me, I am honored to stand on the shoulders of giants. I’m fortunate to still have him here in the region to have that relationship.”
Tisdale retires on June 30 after 25 years of leading the historically black university. The university’s trustees unanimously selected Warmack to succeed him.
Warmack took his own advice when choosing to take the job at Claflin.
“I’ve been in higher ed for 20 years and I tell students when they’re making a college decision, you know when you step on that campus if it’s a place for you. So, there was a special feel that I felt when I stepped on Claflin’s campus and said, ‘Wow, this is it. This is a place where I can happily go and serve,’” he said.
Warmack noted Harris-Stowe’s previous president served 32 years before he became president.
“I have a history of coming behind long-standing leaders. I value embracing the past while transcending into the future,” he said.
Warmack has served as president of Harris-Stowe State University for the past five years. Harris-Stowe is an HBCU located in St. Louis, Missouri.
A press release from Claflin stated, “Under Dr. Warmack’s exemplary leadership, Harris-Stowe witnessed an institutional transformation, which is unparalleled in its 162-year history. He has shepherded more than $24 million in external funding to the institution, including a $5 million STEM grant, the largest in the school’s history. He cultivated more than 16 partnerships and collaborations with Fortune 500 companies, regional organizations and other higher education institutions to strengthen Harris-Stowe’s infrastructure.”
Prior to his years at Harris-Stowe, Warmack served as the senior vice president of administration and student services at Bethune-Cookman University.
Warmack also served as associate dean of students at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, and held positions at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina, and Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, his alma mater.
Warmack was one of two finalists for the position.
Claflin University Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. James K. Lehman stated that the search committee narrowed down the finalists from a pool of over 45 candidates.
“The final pool was in excess of 50 candidates that was considered by the search committee, and that did not include certain candidates that did not otherwise meet the qualifications,” Lehman said.
He said the search committee was “looking for leadership ability. We were looking for an ability to relate to students, an ability to raise the needed resources for the university. Looking for someone who was committed to fiscal accountability, which Claflin has a reputation for always having had fiscal accountability and fiscal responsibility, as well, and most importantly of maintaining the culture of excellent academics.”
“Dr. Warmack was someone who impressed all of us as being the next generation who has already faced some of the challenges of higher education and helped his current institution and prior institution in very significant ways,” he said.
Lehman expressed his belief in Warmack’s vision for the institution.
“He’s got great vision for how he believes he can move Claflin yet to even another level,” Lehman said. “We’re looking forward to having him do that. The university has had a strategic plan in place for several years and he will be carrying that forward.
“We will not be starting, but it will really be a continuation of the strategic plan that as a board we developed with the cabinet over the last several years.”
Claflin’s new president stated that he will build on the foundation built by his predecessors.
“Claflin is on an amazing trajectory,” he said. “The theoretical framework is here. Great things are there.”
Warmack said his goal is to transition the university from great to excellent.
“Claflin is already a great institution. How do we transcend to be excellent? So, you know, I want to continue to build on those things, the things that have happened already, build those, and bring some of the expertise and skill set I have to continue to go to the next level,” Warmack said.
“That’s my vision. I don’t want to be status quo."
Warmack earned a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in sociology from Delta State University.
He earned his doctorate in educational leadership with a specialization in higher education from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. He has also completed post-doctoral work in educational leadership at the Harvard University School of Education.
Over the years, Warmack has received a number of awards and special honors including being named among the HBCU Campaign Fund’s “Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2018,” being named the East St. Louis Branch of the NAACP’s “Game Changer” in 2016 and being inducted into his alma mater’s hall of fame in 2014.
Warmack and his wife LaKisha have one daughter, Morgan.