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Dr. Billy Hawkins to be first Black president of Talladega College with building named in his honor

Talladega College President Billy Hawkins has led the once-struggling institution through a period of growth and revitalization. (The Daily Home)
By The Daily Home

Talladega College will hold a naming ceremony for the Dr. Billy C. Hawkins Student Activity Center at 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14.

The new 47,000-square-foot arena will be the first campus facility named in honor of one of the institution’s Black presidents.

In 2008, when Hawkins became the 20th president of Talladega College, the institution was struggling to survive financially.

The Dr. Billy C. Hawkins Student Activity Center will be Talladega College’s first building named for one of its Black presidents. (Talladega College)

Hawkins implemented rigorous plans for renovation and growth that transformed the college. As a result of his vision, enrollment doubled to 601 students in one semester; athletic programs were reinstated for the first time in 10 years; and major campus beautification projects were undertaken.

The college enjoyed record enrollment in both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years. Talladega College now has more than 1,200 students.

Under Hawkins’ leadership, Talladega College is listed among Princeton Review’s best colleges in the Southeast, U.S. News & World Report’s most innovative colleges and Kiplinger’s Best Value Colleges.

Talladega’s 2019 Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges accreditation was reaffirmed through 2029 with no recommendations for change in any of the standards reviewed and, for the first time, the college is accredited to teach at the master’s degree level.

Talladega recently launched its first graduate program, an online Master of Science in computer information systems. In addition, the campus is undergoing a major physical transformation.

New construction on campus includes a 45,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art residence hall, which opened in 2019, and the Dr. William R. Harvey Museum of Art, which opened this year.

The Dr. William R. Harvey Museum of Art houses six critically acclaimed Hale Woodruff murals, including the renowned Amistad Murals.

To construct the museum for Woodruff’s murals, which are valued at $50 million, Hawkins secured Talladega’s largest-ever financial gift, a $1 million donation from alumnus Harvey.

Recent construction on the Talladega College campus includes a 45,000-square foot, state-of-the-art residence hall, the Dr. William R. Harvey Museum of Art and the new student center, which will be named for President Billy Hawkins. (The Daily Home)

Hawkins also secured a $1.5 million contribution from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and the state of Alabama.

“Dr. Hawkins took over as president in 2008 when Talladega College was struggling to survive,” said Isaiah Hugley, chairman of the Talladega College Board of Trustees. “As a result of his leadership, the college is once again recognized as one of the most well-respected HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in the nation.”

Hawkins is on the President Trump’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs and also is chairman of the 37 presidents of member institutions for the UNCF(United Negro College Fund).

In addition, he was appointed by Ivey to the Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council. He is the first Black chairman of the Alabama Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Hawkins is the author of two books and a member of the Talladega Rotary Club, the Delta Upsilon Boule and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.

He was ranked first among the Top Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2020 by the HBCU Campaign Fund. Hawkins is a recipient of many awards, including the Vanguard Award from the Higher Education Leadership Foundation, the Col. Leo Thorsness Courage Award, the Ferris State Distinguished Alumni Award, the Kent Hall of Fame, the Presidential Service Award from the HBCU Title III Administrators Inc., the Distinguished Service Award to the Nation’s HBCUs, Alabama’s Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.’s Graduate Citizen of the Year Award, and the Theta Tau Chapter’s Citizenship Award.

The Kent, Ohio, native holds a bachelor’s degree in teacher education from Ferris State University, a master’s degree in education administration from Central Michigan University and a doctorate in education from Michigan State University. He has completed postdoctoral study at Harvard University.

Hawkins and his wife, Lucy, reside in Talladega.

This story originally appeared in The Daily Home.