SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Savannah State University on Friday officially swore in its 14th president, Kimberly Ballard-Washington.
Ballard-Washington became the second female to hold the role permanently.
Gov. Brian Kemp, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, Chatham County Commissioner Chester Ellis and several members of the Georgia Board of Regents were on hand for the investiture ceremony at Tiger Arena in Savannah, The Savannah Morning News reported.
When Cheryl Dozier retired as president in 2019, Ballard-Washington was named interim president. The Board of Regents appointed her in May to her current role.
“I stand before you this morning, proud to accept the charge and challenge of serving as the 14th president of Savannah State University,” she said. “Savannah State University is rising.”
Ballard-Washington thanked several people during the ceremony and said her family has been her biggest supporter. She said her parents taught her to become the leader she is today.
“I am a child of servant leaders, and they taught me how to lead quietly, how to lead when you didn’t have the authority to lead, and being provided with the opportunity to work with our students means the world to me,” she said.
Savannah State, which was founded in 1890 as the state’s first public historically black college or university in Georgia, was the first institution of higher learning in the city of Savannah. Ballard-Washington said one of her goals is to create an education pipeline to close the gap of first-generation college students by removing barriers that students face.
“My goals and visions for the university is to increase degree attainment," she said. “We want to ... have more access to degrees for students of color, but also for students of any other background. We are a place where you can come as you are and leave in a much better place.”
Other goals include increasing degree programs that would help create generational wealth, educate students with a purpose, create leaders, continue to play a role as an historical Black college and university for students who might not otherwise have been able to go to college, she said.