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President Ben Vinson III Advocates for the ‘Howard Way’ at the 156th Opening Convocation

President Vinson described Howard University’s commitment to leadership and service as the “Howard way” in his first speech as president.

Howard’s 18th president, Ben Vinson III, speaking at the 156th Opening Convocation in Cramton Auditorium on Sept. 15 (Keith Golden Jr/The Hilltop)

The newly appointed university president, Dr. Ben Vinson III, moved the audience with his commitment to push the university to “maximum strength” while staying true to the legacy of “the Howard way.” 

Looking out into a crowd of nearly 1500 people in Cramton Auditorium, a mixed group of Howard alumni spanning various decades, students from across the 14 colleges and selected students from both the Howard University Early Learning Program and the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics & Science, Vinson shared a question with the audience he’d harbored since becoming president of the university.

“How has it been fully realized? Just what would full realization look like and how will we ensure that is the foundation of the Howard experience?” he said.

Describing Howard’s legacy in leadership, innovation and service as a component of the “Howard way,” Vinson acknowledged that while the university has made progress, there is work to be continued. 

“[The Howard Way] is derived from our mission,” Vinson said. “You see it in how leadership is taught here, you see it in the realms of communications, of arts and social work. In our approach to legal, medical and business education. You see it in the arts and sciences and how we raise our engineers. A Howard way exists broadly.”

Dana Williams, dean of the Graduate School and faculty member since 1999, enjoyed hearing about Vinson’s hopes for the future of Howard. 

“I was inspired by it,” she said. “It doesn’t take much to excite me about the fall semester, it’s my second favorite time of the year, graduation being the first, but I was especially excited about these remarks. The clear vision and articulation of what’s possible and the recognition of what already is. I appreciated the fact there was an understanding of what it is that we do without compromising what we can do.” 

Vinson’s speech came four weeks into the beginning of the school year. “It just shows he’s ready to serve as the president and hopefully bring good vibes,” said Jonnai Howard, a senior nursing major from Boston.

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For Vinson, on the 15th day of his presidency, convocation held special meaning, he said. His first convocation marked one of his first appearances as president of Howard.

“I couldn’t be more honored to stand before you today in this regalia as an official member,” Vinson said after taking the stage. Welcoming the freshmen class of 2027, Vinson continued to express his gratitude for being able to serve the Howard community. He spoke of his dedication to strengthening Howard’s legacy as an institution and global powerhouse. 

“Today as yesterday, we are sure of our mission,” Vinson said. The mission, as he calls it, is centered around the motto of Howard: truth and service. “These values are essential to me. I was born in Rapid City, South Carolina, to an Air Force serviceman and an elementary school teacher. My parents selflessly dedicated their lives to others and to their country.”  

Vinson said his family background and experiences shaped him into the formative educator he is today. Howard’s motto of truth and service combined with its longtime legacy of leadership is one Vinson hopes to elevate to new heights. 

I am reminded that we at Howard are on a perennial quest for trust. As much as truth is also our value, it is also our beckoningPresident Ben Vinson III

“I am reminded that we at Howard are on a perennial quest for trust. As much as truth is also our value, it is also our beckoning,” he said. 

Vinson’s candor comforted many of the listeners in the audience. “I thought the president’s speech was very nice and put together. He articulated his thoughts really well,” Elizabeth Glasen, senior nursing major from Long Island, said. “It was refreshing to see he was excited to be here and serve Howard and really make some change.”

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Howard University’s School of Business 2007 graduate and board member of the Howard University Alumni Association Jarrah Hamer appreciated Vinson’s authenticity. “I thought it was actually really great,” he said of Vinson’s speech. “I thought it was authentically him.”

Murphy Jones, vice president of HUSA, shared thoughts on Vinson’s speech. “I think President Vinson is excited to be here and excited to work with the student body, and that I couldn’t be more happy about.”

Following the closing remarks from Vinson and Dean of the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, Reverend Bernard Richardson, the chorus closed the ceremony with the university’s alma mater song, and members of the audience as well as those faculty on stage flowed out onto the Yard where a community cookout was held.

Copy edited by Jasper Smith

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