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A Conversation with John Wilson About Inclusive Excellence at and Beyond Harvard
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. currently serves as Senior Advisor and Strategist to the President at Harvard University. He assumed that role after spending much of 2017 as “President in Residence” at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he conducted research for a book about the future of American higher education, with an emphasis on the nation’s historically black colleges and universities.
Wilson served as the 11th President of Morehouse College. With a turnaround in mind, he led a team to successfully increase applications, stabilize and expand enrollment, and elevate the graduation rate. On his watch, alumni giving doubled, annual advancement returns grew by 41 percent, and trustee cash giving tripled. His new embrace of students helped to shape the College’s fourth Rhodes Scholar in 2016, and his creative work with Silicon Valley executives helped lead Forbes Magazine to name Morehouse as the 5th Most Entrepreneurial College in 2015. For the first time in its history, Morehouse College hosted a sitting President of the United States, when President Barack Obama served as commencement speaker in 2013.
Prior to his leadership of Morehouse, Wilson served as the executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. Between 2001 and 2009, he was as an Associate Professor of higher education in the Graduate School of Education at the George Washington University, and the Executive Dean of GW’s Virginia Campus. He started his career in 1985 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he served for 16 years in various roles, ultimately as Assistant Provost and director of Foundation Relations.
A recipient of numerous awards, he has served on Advisory Boards at the Kresge Foundation, the United Negro College Fund, Gallaudet University, Carnegie Mellon University and the Council of Independent Colleges. Prior to being elected to Harvard University’s Board of Overseers (through 2022, currently on leave), he served on the Trustee Boards of The Samaritans, the Andover Newton Theological School, the Independence Federal Savings Bank, and Spelman College.
Wilson received a B.A. from Morehouse College, a Master of Theological Studies degree from the Harvard Divinity School, and both Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Administration, Planning and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.