NEW ORLEANS — The Dillard University board of trustees has announced that Dr. Rochelle L. Ford will serve as the university’s 8th president. Ford is currently the dean of Elon University’s school of communications, where she leads more than 80 faculty and 1,500 students with six undergraduate major programs of study and one graduate program. Ford is a 2021 fellow in Clark Atlanta University’s HBCU Executive Leadership Institute. Succeeding Dr. Walter Kimbrough, Ford will assume her role as president July 1.
“Dr. Ford is a dynamic, charismatic and visionary leader,” said Michael D. Jones, chair of Dillard’s board of trustees. “Students, faculty, and trustees were blown away by her insight, passion and drive. As impressive as Dillard has been over the past 150 years in producing history makers and change agents, there is no question that, under Dr. Ford’s leadership, the best is yet to come.”
Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins, executive director of the HBCU Executive Leadership Institute, recalls Ford as an “outstanding fellow” from the institute.
“The way she grasped what we were doing in terms of competencies, let us know that Dr. Ford would become a president,” said Dawkins. “Her colleagues also saw that she had the disposition and knowledge to succeed in a presidential search.”
“I feel very blessed and honored to be selected to service Dillard University, which is a national treasure committed to producing leaders who live ethically,” said Ford. “Dillard’s alumni think precisely and act courageously to make the world a better place. I aim to continue that legacy and ensure the sustainability of Dillard for generations to come.”
Ford’s scholarship and experience include diversity, equity and inclusion, public relations, advertising, journalism and media. She was the second dean in the history of Elon’s school of communications, where she is credited with increasing student enrollment approximately 15% between 2018 and 2021. At Syracuse University, Ford co-chaired the Middle States Commission on Higher Education re-accreditation, and initiated a university-wide required common first year experience. At Elon, she led a reorganization of the academic departments to provide students with more access to administrators, improved faculty and student mentoring and strengthened academic curriculum and industry partnerships. Ford also hired more than 10 full-time faculty and more than 10 part-time instructors.
A native of Gahanna, Ohio, Ford earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism with a specialization in public relations from Howard, her master’s degree in journalism with a specialization in public relations from University of Maryland, and her Ph.D. in journalism from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. She also earned a graduate certificate in higher education administration from Harvard University.
Ford will be the second woman named Dillard’s president in a permanent capacity. Dr. Bettye Parker Smith served as interim president 2004-2005, and Dr. Marvalene Hughes served as president 2005-2011.