DURHAM, NC – North Carolina Central University (NCCU) is saddened by the loss of the 11th Chancellor, Dr. Debra Saunders-White, who passed away on Saturday, Nov. 26 after a brave fight with cancer. Saunders-White served as NCCU’s chief administrator, a position she held since June 1, 2013.
In her honor, a ‘Celebration of Life Tribute’ will be held on Friday, Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. in NCCU’s McDougald-McLendon Arena. Saunders-White’s funeral is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 3 at 11 a.m. at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church (414 Buckroe Avenue, Hampton, Virginia 23664) in Virginia.
“Her loss is nearly immeasurable to our community, but her influence on higher education and her genuine love and dedication for NCCU, most especially the students, are clearly evident by her impact in Durham, across North Carolina and throughout our nation,” said Dr. Johnson O. Akinleye, acting chancellor, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs in a statement to the NCCU community. “Chancellor Saunders-White was a powerhouse of energy and wit; she spent her life passionately executing on her visionary and transformative strategy of using education to create opportunity.”
Saunders-White was appointed as the university’s first permanent female chancellor on February 8, 2013, after a successful career with the U.S. Department of Education. She joined the U.S. Department of Education as the deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs prior to her appointment as acting assistant secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education. She also served as vice chancellor for information technology systems at University of North Carolina Wilmington and vice president for technology and chief information officer at Hampton University. Prior to entering higher education administration, Saunders-White spent 15 years in the corporate sector at IBM.
A Hampton, Va., native, Saunders-White earned her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Virginia. She earned a Master of Business Administration from the College of William & Mary and a doctorate in higher education administration from The George Washington University.
Saunders-White’s vision of “Eagle Excellence” made delivering excellence in NCCU’s classrooms, excellence throughout the campus and excellence in the institution’s service to the community a focus during her administration.
During her three years as NCCU chancellor, the university sustained a number of achievements including the current development of a new Student Center and inclusion in the Connect NC bond that will build a new School of Business. Under her leadership, NCCU received numerous high rankings and honored as the 2016 HBCU of the Year by HBCU Digest.
Throughout her administration, Saunders-White strategically enhanced, elevated and showcased NCCU as a first-choice, premier and global institution of higher learning with a significant increase in retention and graduation rates, strength and reputation among education administrators, student-faculty ratios, high school standing for incoming first-year students and alumni giving. As a result, the university became the third-highest ranked public Historically Black College of University (HBCU) in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Additionally, NCCU has recorded several institutional fundraising records.
A testament of truth and service, Saunders-White was actively involved in a number of service and community organizations, including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., The Links, Incorporated, Made for Durham and United Way of the Greater Triangle.
Saunders-White is survived by two children, Elizabeth Paige and Cecil III, her mother, Irene Saunders, and her brothers, Roger, Ralph and Kyle Saunders, and their families, a number of other family members and a host of friends and colleagues.
In lieu of flowers, please make contributions to The Saunders-White Family Endowed Scholarship at www.nccu.edu, select ‘Giving’ and choose The Saunders-White Family Endowed Scholarship from the designation list. Checks can be made payable to the NCCU Foundation with The Saunders-White Family Endowed Scholarship on the memo line addressed to NCCU Institutional Advancement, PO Box 19363, Durham, NC 27707.
North Carolina Central University prepares students to succeed in the global marketplace. Flagship programs include the sciences, technology, nursing, education, law, business and the arts. Founded in 1910 as a liberal arts college for African-Americans, NCCU remains committed to diversity in higher education. Our alumni excel in a wide variety of academic and professional fields. Visit www.nccu.edu.