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Dr. James R. Martin II elected new N.C.A&T SU Chancellor


North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University announced, on June 21, its 13th chancellor will be Dr. James R. Martin II.

Martin was elected in a unanimous vote by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, following his nomination by UNC System President Peter Hans. Martin was one of three finalists, vetted by a 13-member search committee, that included representatives of the board of trustees, faculty, staff, students and alumni. The policy also called for a current or former chancellor of a UNC constituent institution, the president, and representatives of the UNC Board of Governors to serve on the committee.

Martin’s appointment will begin on August 15. He succeeds Dr. Harold Martin Sr., ─ no relation ─ who is retiring this year after 15 years as chancellor. Harold Martin holds the title of the longest running chancellor in the UNC system and the first A&T graduate to become the university’s top leader, in addition to his experience in administration at the UNC System and as chancellor of another system HBCU, Winston-Salem State University.

“I am overly enthused about tasking these goals to someone who is well versed and prepared to lead this university and manage setting big goals for this institution. Being a land grant research university that drives economic prosperity for the region and for its graduates and we do that very well, I believe that Chancellor-elect Martin will continue that prosperity. His background in STEM and interdisciplinary helps him understand the importance the role that research and innovation play in creating and building a strong economy,” said former Chancellor Martin.

James Martin, who served the past four years as the U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering in the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, has decades of experience as an engineering professor, institute director, dean and leader of science initiatives at major public universities. He taught at Virginia Tech University from 1990 to 2013, before becoming chair of the Glenn Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Clemson University, until 2018 when he transitioned to the University of Pittsburgh.

While there’s been questions about Martin’s readiness to lead the nation’s top HBCU and build on his predecessor’s successes, despite not having an HBCU background, many have faith in his abilities.

“Dr. Martin is an exceptional leader with a strong vision for where we can take our university in the coming years,” said Kimberly Bullock Gatling, ‘96, chair of the North Carolina A&T Board of Trustees and member of the search committee. “North Carolina A&T has enjoyed enormous success in recent years, and I have no doubt that Dr. Martin will continue the university’s strong ascent and increase our national presence as a doctoral, research land-grant HBCU.”

After being named chancellor-elect on Friday, Martin took the stage at a welcome event at the Alumni Foundation Center on campus with a message of, “keeping our foot on the gas.”

“North Carolina A&T is a recognized national leader in harnessing technology and access to learning to unlock human potential,” Martin said. “That’s one of many reasons why it’s so exciting to have been chosen to lead the university at a moment when America is in particular need of the very things that North Carolina A&T does best. Our students, faculty, staff and alumni are on an incredible ascent, having accomplished so much in recent years. I look forward to joining them on that journey and ensuring that we continue to build on A&T’s exceptional momentum as we set ambitious new sights for the months and years ahead.”

Martin discussed his strong belief in education as a means for upwards mobility in life, sharing that he attended The Citadel on a scholarship, which was the launch of a prominent career in engineering and in higher education leadership, complete reshaping the trajectory of his life and the lives of his family.

“I’ve always asked myself,” Martin said, “‘boy, if I were a student and I had the opportunity to be around over 13,000 students that looked like me, that thought like me, where I didn’t have to work so hard to fit in, where I could find my place, and that was supported by an incredible hardworking faculty and talented professional staff that let me know that they were vested in my success… there is no telling what else I could have accomplished in that environment.’”

Education was his way out of his childhood hometown, a small farming community in Cross Keys, South Carolina. Something that he is reminded of every time he takes a trip home.

“The second thought that I have as I’m driving down that road is, I ask myself, ‘How much stranded brilliance is along these highways running around our communities and our state and our nation?’” Martin said. “How much untapped human potential is there out there?”

Martin earned a B.S. in civil engineering from The Citadel. He completed M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in civil engineering at Virginia Tech. He has received numerous national, state, and university awards for research, teaching, scholarship, and service, including the American Society of Civil Engineer’s Norman Medal, the highest honor for published work in the field. He was inducted into the Virginia Tech Department of Civil Engineering’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2015.

As dean a at Pittsburgh, he oversaw an engineering program with 2,900 undergraduates, 850 graduate students and 200 faculty. He will now lead the nation’s largest historically Black university that boasts a $2.5 billion statewide impact and its way to becoming a top-tier research institution, termed “Research 1” by the Carnegie Classification that categorizes universities by their levels of research activity.

“We’re going to be committed to excellence, and we’re going to do it with pride because that’s how we do it here. As we think about building the bright future that we deserve, and we deserve the very best, I want you to know that we’re going to keep our foot on the gas. We’re going to continue accelerating,” said James Martin.