Wilmington University makes history with new president

    Dr. Laverne Harmon will be the first African American woman to lead any university in Delaware when she takes the reins at Wilmington University next year. (photo courtesy Wilm. U.)

    Dr. Laverne Harmon will be the first African American woman to lead any university in Delaware when she takes the reins at Wilmington University next year. (photo courtesy Wilm. U.)

    Wilmington University has named Dr. LaVerne Harmon as its next president; she will be the first African American woman president of any university in Delaware.

    “I’m grateful for the board’s confidence and trust in me to lead the university into the next chapter of its history,” Harmon said. “It will be my privilege to work collaboratively with our talented staff and faculty to provide educational opportunities and ensure personal growth for students.”

    The school’s board of trustees unanimously approved promoting the executive vice president to succeed current President Dr. Jack Varsalona. Varsalona recently announced his retirement, effective June 30, 2017.

    “Dr. Harmon has always shown great determination in all she has done and accomplished,” said the Honorable Joseph Farnan, Jr., board chairman. “The board’s unanimous approval of her reflects complete confidence in the wealth of experience and extraordinary skills she brings to the office of the president, the board and the university community. We look forward to her successful tenure.”

    Harmon began working at Wilmington University in 1989 and held numerous positions while earning undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wilmington University and a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration from the University of Pennsylvania. She has played key roles in the university’s internal operations, strategic planning and growth since becoming executive vice president in 2014.

    “Her service and capabilities have steadily prepared her to be the next president of this university,” Farnan continued.

    Varsalona started at the university in 1987 as executive vice president and provost. He assumed the presidency in 2005. During his tenure, what was initially Wilmington College expanded its programming, gained university status and saw increasing enrollment. 

    The university mainstay is a strong supporter of his successor. “From her time as vice president of Student Affairs through her current position, Dr. Harmon has shown that she understands what is going on throughout the university,” he said. “She was an adult learner with a full-time job, just like the majority of our students. She is now a brilliant administrator who leads with both knowledge and passion for the university’s mission.”

    Harmon feels she has benefited from working with Varsalona. “Dr. Varsalona has steered our university’s exponential growth and all of us are indebted to him for his incredible leadership. He has always been a role model for me, a source of support and a true friend. I’m humbled by the opportunity to follow in his footsteps, and regardless of what I may accomplish in the years ahead, I will always honor his legacy.”

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