I have worked with or for NAFEO for more than three decades. During that time, I have had the privilege of working with or for more than 300 HBCU presidents/chancellors. As Vice President for Government at The College Board, and as a member of several boards that include CEOs of diverse American colleges and universities, I have had occasion to work with hundreds more American college and university presidents. Dr. Henry N. Tisdale is truly among the top of American college presidents. Under his leadership, Claflin became widely recognized variously as the nation’s leading liberal arts college, among the nation’s top American colleges and universities, in the top tier of comprehensive baccalaureate granting institutions in the South (14 consecutive years), the number one HBCU, in the top 4% of colleges and universities nationally,” (Forbes Magazine), and first in alumni giving among HBCUs.
Continue reading below, or download a Word document version of these comments.
In July, 2019 President Tisdale transitioned from the helm of Claflin University, paving the way for Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack, the former President of Harris-Stowe State University, his successor, to build on the tremendous successes of President Tisdale and the strong institution he will inherit. NAFEO is pleased that President Tisdale has agreed to remain connected to the NAFEO Nation, and particularly to the NAFEO Presidential Peer Seminar & Leadership Development Institute where he will continue to serve as a mentor/trainer for new and newer presidents and chancellors.
Dr. Tisdale credits his remarkable growth, amazing financial and student outcomes, at Claflin University, to his five-point Claflin Model of Excellence (CME). I cannot provide the public with his recipe because it is proprietary, and it is Henry’s to share or not. During my 15-year tenure at the helm of NAFEO, the nation’s membership and advocacy association of all HBCUs and PBIs, Dr. Tisdale freely volunteered to share The Tisdale Five-Point Claflin Model of Excellence with no fewer than twelve freshmen classes of presidents and chancellors averaging fifty HBCU and PBI presidents and chancellors at the NAFEO annual Presidential Peer Seminars, Leadership Development Institutes, and Freshmen Presidents/Chancellors’ Boot Camps. While growing and strengthening Claflin University, he volunteered to mentor no small number of freshmen presidents and chancellors. I suspect that the Tisdale CME included some points from his Dartmouth College thesis, On Methods for Solving Optimal Stopping Problems. I could not acquire a copy, but I would like to. And I know that the Tisdale leadership success at Claflin has a great deal to do with lessons he learned as a world class mathematician. Early in his tenure, in 1994, before the Nation caught up with him in its understanding of the importance of and need for more excellent, diverse students prepared in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), President Tisdale launched at Claflin, the Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics.
The Tisdale Five-Point CME was augmented by his mastery of mentorship, his unique trait of listening more than he talks , and his uncanny instincts for people and politics. Dr. Tisdale has a gift for making everyone he encounters feel validated, respected, important to the success on that which you are collaborating, and desirous of rising to his expectations, as high as they are. In a whisper he can raise his voice above a cacophony of deafening voices trying to be heard. Another ingredient in President Tisdale’s CME was his intentionality in making the cornerstones of Claflin, the faith and education liberation that historically anchored HBCUs, while simultaneously growing a model, nimble university, that was globally connected and technologically driven. Few people realize that Claflin University has a leading international program. It does. If you follow Dr. Tisdale’s writings and lectures, you will find that Dr. Tisdale brought to his leadership at Claflin University, a global vision and a full appreciation for the interconnectivity and interdependence of human kind, and an appreciation that a system of cooperative economics, collective work and responsibility among African-ancestored people worldwide, can advance African-ancestored people as a whole, by optimizing the mathematics of the African diaspora. As a mathematician at SUNY Buffalo, he wrote an essay on this topic.
Dr. Henry Nehemiah Tisdale drove Claflin University to becoming the inimitable Claflin University, first in class, because he is an inimitable leader. Most importantly, most importantly her has a first rate mate and partner. President Henry Tisdale, First Lady Alice Carson Tisdale and all who are associated with Claflin University will tell you, the real secret to President Tisdale’s success is the “Tisdale Team.” They both acknowledge they have shared and complimentary strengths, and that President Tisdale could not have achieved what he did without the visionary, steady, innovative, loving leadership of First Lady Tisdale. One example of the centrality of her leadership to his, was her leadership of the Claflin University honors college, named in her honor. The honors college attracted exemplary scholars, increased financial gifts to the university, opened doors to more partnerhips with highly selective universities, expanded the employer base that recruits at Claflin University, increased student graduation rates such that all honors college students much complete research, present a thesis, and complete a honors leadership program. 96% of the honors college students graduate in four years, placing the graduation rate well above that of four-year American colleges and universities. The success of the honors college resulted in increased student outcomes across the campus. The tenacious, tatical, thorough, thoughtful, terrific, Tisdale Team worked tirelessly together, to transform Claflin University. Their successes are transcendent, for which NAFEO Nation is Tremendously Thankful and Claflin is Triumphant!