Biden taps Delaware State’s Tony Allen to run HBCU Initiative

Tony Allen stands behind a chair in his office

Delaware State University president Tony Allen will lead the Biden administration's Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. (Courtesy of DSU)

Tony Allen is quickly becoming a go-to leader for President Joe Biden.

Last fall, Biden picked Allen to lead the planning effort for his January inauguration, a task that took on much more symbolic weight following the attack on the U.S. Capitol just two weeks before.

Now, the president of Delaware State University has been selected to lead Biden’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs. In that role, Allen will work to advance the HBCU Initiative, first created by the Carter administration. The initiative aims to increase the capacity of HBCUs to provide the highest-quality education to their students and continue serving as engines of opportunity.

Earlier this week, Biden talked about the value of having strong HBCUs throughout the country during the national HBCU Week conference, held virtually this year.

“This gathering is an important affirmation of the vital role that HBCUs play in this country — from Delaware State — which has a special place in my heart, to more than 100 institutions across the country,” Biden said.

“It’s a tradition rooted in the fundamental belief that quality education is the right that belongs to all people, that every single American should have a chance to go as far as their God-given talents can get them there.”

Biden’s roots go way back at Del. State. Speaking at the school’s 2016 commencement ceremony, then-Vice President Biden looked back at the start of his 36-year career as a U.S. senator from Delaware. That career started when he was just 29 and asked for the help of Delaware State students during his campaign, despite having, in his words, “no money” and “no real background.”

“It really did start here,” Biden said in 2016. “The only reason I got elected then was because of this campus and the community it represents.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons — who has held the Senate seat Biden once held since 2010­ — praised the selection of Allen to lead the HBCU advisory panel.

“Dr. Allen is a remarkable leader and champion for HBCUs. As president of Delaware State University, he has helped transform the university into a premier center for learning and cutting-edge research that graduates top talent to lead our communities and boardrooms,” Coons said. “Dr. Allen has the vision and dedication to continue to advance the vital role that our nation’s HBCUs play in serving future generations of American students.”

HBCUs like Delaware State are responsible for nearly 20% of all Black college graduates and 25% of Black graduates who earn degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math, according to the White House.

DSU has been on a growth track in recent years. In July, the school became the first HBCU to acquire a non-HBCU school on its own when it took over Dover’s Wesley College. Allen hopes to double Delaware State’s student body to 10,000 from 5,000 over the next few years.

In August, the school announced plans to return to the city of Wilmington after Capital One donated a $4.7-million building to DSU.

The six-story, 35,000-square-foot brick office building will become home to Del. State’s School for Graduate, Adult and Extended Studies. It also marks the university’s return to Wilmington after closing its city campus nearly 10 years ago.

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