Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye, 12th chancellor of North Carolina Central University (NCCU), will retire at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year, June 30, 2024. Akinleye made the announcement at a Jan. 12, 2024, meeting of the NCCU Board of Trustees. A national search will be conducted for a successor, with details to be released soon.
“I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to lead this esteemed university through a period of growth and innovation, a period when the institution was primed for transformative change. I am immensely proud and truly gratified to have worked with very talented executive staff, a supportive Board of Trustees, a dedicated faculty and staff and thousands of caring and dedicated alumni across the nation and worldwide during the past eight-plus years,” Akinleye said in a statement to the campus community.
“Chancellor Akinleye has served North Carolina Central University tirelessly since 2014, taking on the role of chancellor in 2016 and working to uphold the proud history of one of our nation’s finest HBCUs,” said University of North Carolina (UNC) System President Peter Hans. “During his nearly eight years as chancellor, Dr. Akinleye has helped the university increase its academic offerings, enrollment, research funding and capital infrastructure. The chancellor also helped to elevate the university’s national presence, prioritizing access, affordability and student success. We are grateful for Dr. Akinleye’s service and leadership.”
”In Chancellor Akinleye, NCCU has been blessed to have a visionary who is student-focused, a leader who established the successful preparation of graduates for the global marketplace as his true measure of success,” said NCCU Board of Trustees chair Kevin M. Holloway. “I am pleased to have worked alongside him for his entire tenure as chancellor, and to be able to embrace his vision and growth strategy for our beloved university. The major expansion in infrastructure, additional academic portfolio, enrollment growth and improved ranking of NCCU serve as a testament to Chancellor Akinleye’s leadership.”
Akinleye was appointed the 12th chancellor of North Carolina Central University on June 26, 2017. He joined NCCU as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs in February 2014, then assumed the role of acting chancellor in August 2016 and interim chancellor in December 2016, before his appointment as chancellor.
Akinleye has delivered transformational leadership to NCCU during his tenure, steering the institution to achieve records in enrollment (5.5% growth in 2023, ahead of all UNC System institutions); fundraising ($16.4 million generated in 2023); student success and research funding ($227 million generated from 2017-2023); as well as growth and achievement in athletics, including an HBCU National Championship for football in 2022.
In 2017, Akinleye established five critical priorities at the beginning of his tenure:
- Reinforcing and investing in improved security measures to enhance campus safety and students’ well-being.
- “Building for the Future” – Improving and building new infrastructure to better accommodate the NCCU community as it grows and thrives.
- Improve NCCU’s brand reputation to embrace student success and offer multiple access points for students entering NCCU.
- “Academically Defining the Future and Advancing Research” at NCCU.
- Expand partnerships to recruit, generate funds, and create employment opportunities for students.
Among the results of these priorities, Akinleye’s impact may be best felt in his foundational accomplishments around campus safety and security and a modernized campus, which enabled the remaining priorities to take root and thrive.
Akinleye immediately set about maintaining campus security and safety for NCCU’s students and community, investing more than $3 million towards this critical priority in 2017-2018, primarily in technology. As a result of this investment and related security posture, NCCU was named the safest college campus in North Carolina by SafeStreets in 2021.
It is impossible to overstate the transformation of the NCCU physical campus under Akinleye’s direction. No area of the campus has been untouched during the largest infrastructure expansion in the history of the campus – with projects valued at more than $400 million. Akinleye completed the development of six new major capital projects, including the construction of a new Student Center, School of Business and three ultra-modern apartment-like residence halls. Construction is underway for a 24/7 Collaborative Learning and Research Center, slated to be completed in November 2024. NCCU is no longer a food desert, with the addition of 10 national retail food services across the campus to serve students, faculty and staff. A new state-of-the-art television studio, and upgrades to the NCCU Art Museum and many research facilities have been completed.
Akinleye played a significant role in securing the Millennial Campus designation for NCCU by the UNC System, making the institution the first historically black college or university in the UNC System to be designated as a single institution.
Akinleye presided over the development and implementation of a five-year strategic plan for the university, “Charting a New Landscape for Student-Centered Success,” addressing 2019-2024. This plan is accompanied by objectives and measurable strategies that are designed to enhance NCCU as a top-tier institution with a robust and flexible curriculum, innovative research, market-responsive co-curricular programs, and impactful community engagement. As a result, NCCU has truly exemplified Akinleye’s “Eagle Promise”—evidenced by increases in 2023 in sponsored research funding (97.4%), enrollment (5.5%) and fundraising (8.6%); and on-campus housing that now accommodates 40% of students on campus. Further strategic leadership by Akinleye includes the institution of a 10-year comprehensive master plan in 2018. Phase I of this master plan has been completed and executed.
Akinleye holds a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications and a master’s degree in media technology from Alabama A&M University, as well as a doctorate in human communications studies from Howard University.
“As we depart the sloping hills and verdant green of NCCU, Juanita, Nikki, Peter and I are profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of the NCCU fabric and family for these many years,” Akinleye said in his campus statement. “We take with us very fond memories of an institution that has a rich tradition and legacy and will continue to make great strides in championing education for generations yet to come. We shall continue to cherish and nourish the friendships we have made and our love and passion for this great institution, North Carolina Central University. Eagle Pride, Amplified!”