Harris-Stowe State University has made an historic choice for its 21st president. Dr. LaTonia Collins Smith was named the university’s first Black woman president in late February, Fox 2 News reported.
“Dr. Collins Smith exemplifies Harris-Stowe’s core values of personal growth, respect, innovation, diversity, and excellence. She has demonstrated her extraordinary ability to connect with all of our stakeholders and to catapult Harris-Stowe forward in these critical times,” Chair of the Board of Regents Michael McMillan said, according to the news outlet.
Collins Smith served as the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) interim president for less than a year. She led the university through bomb threats earlier this year and helped it raise more than $3.5 million in scholarships, and donations, according to The St. Louis American.
Harris-Stowe is a product of the 1954 merger of Harris Teachers College, which was established for white students, and Stowe Teachers College for future Black teachers of elementary schools in St. Louis. Following the legacy of Ruth Harris, the first African American woman president of Stowe Teachers College in 1940, Dr. Collins Smith assumed her official role on March 1.
Collins Smith’s career in higher education began at Harris-Stowe State University in 2010. A St. Louis native and a product of The Ville Neighborhood, she earned an educational doctorate in higher education leadership from Maryville University. Collins Smith attended Saint Louis University, where she earned a master of social work degree and a master of public health degree. She also studied social work and graduated from the University of Central Missouri.
Her appointment is a testament to the achievements that led her to this point. She has been recognized many times with leadership and service awards, including the Equal Education Opportunity Group Pioneer Award, the NAACP Ben Hooks Community Leader award, and the AKA Central Region’s Outstanding Educational Advancement Foundation Captain award, according to a university press release.