BY PENNY DICKERSON
When Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) conferred more than 220 degrees at its fall commencement ceremony on Dec. 12, students were not the only legacy symbols to leave the historical institution. President Edison O. Jackson also announced that Provost Makola Abdullah would transition to serve as the 14th president of Virginia State University in Petersburg, Va.
Prior to joining B-CU, Abdullah was provost and vice president at Florida Memorial University. He also spent a 15 years at Florida A&M University, where he most recently served as the dean and director of the 1890 Land Grant Programs in the College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture.
“It is a pleasure to announce Virginia State University’s next president and one of my dear colleagues. Dr. Abdullah has done tremendous work here at B-CU and I am confident in his ability to lead Virginia State University,” said Jackson.
Credit to Jackson
Abdullah is the 10th leader that has moved on to a presidency under Jackson’s mentorship and the second from B-CU. Dr. Dwaun Warmack, a former B-CU vice president, was named the 19th president at Harris-Stowe University in 2014.
Abdullah credits Jackson’s mentorship as one of the main reasons he has this opportunity.
“I was able to openly share my career aspirations with President Jackson. He was always welcoming and offered wisdom to help me achieve the ultimate goal,” said Abdullah. “It has been a privilege to work under his tutelage.”
Standout among 200
A Chicago native, Abdullah earned his bachelor’s degree from Howard University followed by a Master of Science and Ph.D. from Northwestern University. Upon graduation from Northwestern University, he was recognized as the youngest African-American to ever receive a Ph.D. in engineering.
In a statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Virginia State University Rector Harry Black said Abdullah was selected from more than 200 applicants who sought the job.
“He stood out – his energy, his demeanor, his history,” Black said. “He stood out as a difference maker, as someone who could provide transformative leadership and who could unite the entire university family.”
Virginia State University is a historically Black land-grant insitution located in Ettrick near Richmond.
Abdullah and his wife, Ahkinyala, have two children. He is expected to take office Feb. 1.