NEW ORLEANS – Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University, was honored with the 2016 Advocate for Higher Education Award by the Counselors to Higher Education section of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA CHE) at a dinner in New Orleans on Wednesday evening.

Kimbrough then delivered the Patrick Jackson Lecture to an audience of more than 175 university communications and marketing professionals. In his remarks, Kimbrough emphasized the need for universities to articulate a clear and bold mission, and he encouraged university presidents to take a stand on the important issues of the day in higher education and in society.

The lecture was sponsored by Merit, whose platform connects the dots from high school to college to career for nearly 1.4 million students at 250 colleges by sharing the unique stories of their personal collegiate experiences with Merit’s network of legislators, high schools, local newspapers, and families. Amy Mengel, Merit’s vice president of marketing and a member of the PRSA CHE national executive committee that selected Kimbrough for the award, introduced Kimbrough.


“Walter is the embodiment of higher education advocacy,” said Mengel in her introductory remarks. “His larger-than-life presence on Twitter makes him a relatable figure that helps audiences connect with him in a personal way, and allows him to deliver important messages about equity and access in our higher education system today.”

Kimbrough is the first leader of a historically black college or university to receive the award, which was created in 2009 to recognize an individual who has done the most to advocate on behalf of America’s higher education system. Previous winners have included Teresa Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia; Mary Sue Coleman, president emerita of the University of Michigan and now president of the Association of American Universities; Rebecca Chopp, chancellor of the University of Denver; Hunter Rawlings, interim president of Cornell University; and Mark Yudof, former president of the University of California system, among others.

Mengel noted that Kimbrough was unanimously selected by PRSA CHE’s national executive committee, made up of senior communications leaders at more than a dozen top colleges and universities in the US.

“Walter is not afraid to advocate for students and institutions that have often been ignored or marginalized,” Mengel said. “Last summer, he penned a compelling piece in InsideHigherEd questioning the value of mega-gifts to already wealthy institutions, and drawing stark comparisons to how much more impactful that money could be at institutions that are serving higher percentages of Pell-eligible students, first-generation students, and students from low-income families. Walter is a powerful voice in higher education.”

Kimbrough was named the seventh president of Dillard University in 2012, after previously serving as president of Philander Smith College in Arkansas for seven years. In 2014, he was named by HBCU Digest magazine as the Male HBCU President of the Year.