Past Presidents/Chancellors

North Carolina Central University’s (NCCU) past 11 presidents/chancellors represent different eras in the University’s history.

University Founder

Dr. James E. Shepard was the visionary founder of North Carolina Central University (NCCU), establishing it in 1910 as the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua for the Colored Race. His commitment to education and empowerment laid the foundation for NCCU's legacy of academic excellence and social progress. 

Below is a summary of each president/chancellor of NCCU since the university's founding in 1910.

Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye

#12 Dr. Johnson O. Akinleye

Current Chancellor


Dr. Johnson O. Akinleye was appointed the 12th chancellor of NCCU on June 26, 2017. Under his leadership, NCCU's enterprise has expanded significantly. He has led the development of six new major capital projects and was instrumental in securing NCCU's designation as a Millennial Campus, making NCCU the first historically Black college and university in the University of North Carolina System to gain the designation as a single institution. 

Dr. Debra

#11 Dr. Debra Saunders-White



Dr. Debra Saunders-White, NCCU’s first permanent female chancellor, achieved remarkable milestones, including improved retention and graduation rates, increased alumni giving and enhanced campus facilities. Under her leadership, NCCU became the third-highest-ranked HBCU in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and was named the 2016 HBCU of the Year by HBCU Digest.

Charles L. Becton

#10 Charles L. Becton

Interim Chancellor


Prior to serving as interim chancellor, Charles L. Becton served as the Charles Hamilton Houston Chaired Professor of Law at the School of Law in 2010. He was a distinguished lawyer and former judge on the NC Court of Appeals.

Dr. Charlie Nelms

#9 Dr. Charlie Nelms



During his five-year tenure, Dr. Charlie Nelms’ emphasis was on student success, marked by his dedicated efforts to enhance retention and graduation rates. Under his leadership, NCCU was ranked the nation’s No. 1 public historically black university for two consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report.

Dr. Beverly Jones

Dr. Beverly Jones

Interim Chancellor

May 2007–July 2007

Dr. Beverly Jones led transformative changes within NCCU's academic structure and programs. Under her leadership as Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, NCCU's College of Arts and Sciences evolved into three distinct colleges: the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science and Information Technology. Her tenure saw expansions in international programs, articulation agreements and efforts to address critical teacher shortages, garnering national recognition. 

Dr. James

#8 Dr. James H. Ammons



Taking the helm as chancellor, Dr. James H. Ammons assumed a pivotal leadership role at NCCU, as he oversaw the expansion of the West Campus as a result of the 2000 Bond, and contributed to the institution’s surge in enrollment. 

Dr. Julius

#7 Dr. Julius L. Chambers



Becoming the first alumnus to assume the role of chancellor, Dr. Julius L. Chambers embodied a deep connection to NCCU. His transformative legacy includes spearheading extensive construction and renovation initiatives at NCCU, ranging from new dormitories and classrooms to the School of Education and the renowned Biomedical/Biotechnology Research (BBRI) facility, named in his honor.

Dr. Donna

Dr. Donna J. Benson

Interim Chancellor


Dr. Donna J. Benson, NCCU's first female chief administrative officer and the University of North Carolina System's first, championed student welfare. She rescinded the "no deferment, no postponement" tuition policy, introduced payment plans for families and enhanced campus safety through collaboration between University and Durham police. Additionally, Dr. Benson instituted dual graduation ceremonies: one ceremony recognizing graduates individually by name and another where graduates receive their degrees collectively. 


#6 Dr. Tyronza R. Richmond



Prior to his tenure as chancellor, Dr. Tyronza R. Richmond served as the dean of the School of Business at NCCU. He played a key role in the establishment of the School of Education (formerly the Department of Education), demonstrating a commitment to educational excellence by reorganizing its academic administrative structure.

Dr. LeRoy

#5 Dr. LeRoy T. Walker



Dedicated to both academics and athletics, Dr. Walker made significant contributions as the chairman of the Department of Physical Education and Recreation. His multifaceted role extended to serving as head track coach and vice chancellor for University Relations. Today, his enduring legacy is honored with the naming of NCCU’s athletic complex in his honor.

Dr. Albert

#4 Dr. Albert N. Whiting

President and Chancellor


Dr. Albert N. Whiting left an indelible mark by founding the NCCU School of Business and initiating groundbreaking programs in public administration and criminal justice. Notably, Dr. Whiting was the first and only leader to carry the prestigious title of president and chancellor of North Carolina Central University. 

Dr. Samuel

#3 Dr. Samuel Proctor Massie, Jr.



Serving a pivotal role as the associate program director for Undergraduate Science Education of the National Science Foundation at North Carolina College at Durham, Dr. Samuel P. Massie, Jr., served as president from 1963 to 1966.

Dr. Alfonso

#2 Dr. Alfonso Elder



Dr. Alfonso Elder, a distinguished figure in academia, led a storied career as he headed the Graduate Department of Education and later served as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. His remarkable journey culminated in 1948 when he assumed the role of president, leaving an enduring legacy honored by the naming of the Student Union in his honor.

Dr. shepard

#1 Dr. James E. Shepard

University Founder


Dr. James E. Shepard, a Durham pharmacist and religious educator, established the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua for the Colored Race in 1910. His visionary leadership marked him as the esteemed founder of this educational institution that later evolved into North Carolina Central University.