Dr. Henry N. Tisdale
President, Claflin University
Chair, UNCF Government Affairs Committee
Member, ICB Advisory Committee
Dr. Henry N. Tisdale was named Claflin University’s eighth president in 1994, culminating a national yearlong search by the Board of Trustees. Tisdale, a 1965 honor graduate of the University, returned with the pledge that his alma mater “will enter the 21st century with an eye to becoming a premier liberal arts institution,” and that the Christian tradition on which it was founded would remain a part of the University. He also found it important to “create a sound fiscal system, a dynamic strategic planning process, a link between the budget and planning process, an enrollment plan, and an academic plan for excellence.” He wasted little time to deliver on his promise.
Four months after his arrival, Tisdale announced the establishment of the Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics. With funding from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy totaling nearly $2 million, Tisdale identified three areas of concentration: strengthening academic programs in science, engineering and mathematics; renovating the James S. Thomas Science Center; and upgrading the Summer Science Camp for middle-school students. In addition to strengthening Claflin’s academic programs, the Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics was implemented to increase the number of minorities receiving bachelor’s degrees in science, engineering and mathematics, thus incorporating a strategy to reverse the number of underrepresented minorities in STEM disciplines.
Also in 1994, the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College was established. With higher entry requirements, the Honors College works to prepare students for graduate and professional schools and leadership roles in their profession and society at large through learning experiences, academic advising, cultural enrichment and community service.
Committed to the vision of making Claflin a premier liberal arts college, Tisdale implemented several programs. Claflin's state-of-the-art television production studio began producing local shows through a collaboration with Time Warner Cable. The award-winning Freshman College was established in 1996 to ease the transition into college life, and the Professional and Continuing Studies Center became a reality in 1997 after years of planning. Also in 1997, Claflin's Academic Plan for Excellence was implemented, and the Leadership Development Center was established.
Throughout his career, Tisdale has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors in recognition of his exceptional and transformative leadership. He is the recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian award and the Higher Education Leadership Foundation Award. In September 2008, the town of Kingstree, in recognition of the extraordinary achievements of their native son, erected a lasting tribute, six highway markers proclaiming Kingstree, SC the “Home of Dr. Henry N. Tisdale, The Eighth President of Claflin University.” Tisdale’s other recent honors include the 2008 CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) District III Chief Executive Leadership Award, the 2007 Milliken Medal of Quality Award, 2007 BellSouth Honoree, the I. DeQuincey Newman Humanitarian Award, the NAFEO (National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education) Distinguished Alumni Award, Who’s Who Among Black Americans and the NAACP Educator of the Year Award. He has been awarded honorary doctorates from Hofstra University and South Carolina State University.
Over the years, Tisdale also has served on many committees, councils, boards and task forces at both the state and national levels. He is a member of the Board of Directors of UNCF, American Council on Education Commission on Effective Leadership, UNCF Special Programs Board of Directors, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges Council of Presidents, the HBCU-ETS Steering Committee and a member of Governor Nikki Haley’s Transition Team. He is a member of the Claflin University National Alumni Association, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, the Orangeburg Rotary Club and Trinity United Methodist Church.
Claflin continues to grow and change under Tisdale's leadership. This year, 2016, marks his 22nd anniversary at the University. Tisdale and his wife, Alice Carson Tisdale, have two children, Danica Camille Tisdale Fisher and Brandon Keith Tisdale and a grandson, Asa Toure Fisher.