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New Leadership at Philander Smith University

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New Leadership at Philander Smith University


The board of trustees for Philander Smith University(PSU) on June 22 announced the appointment of Dr. Cynthia Hopson as interim president following the unexpected resignation of former PSU President Roderick Smothers Sr. in early May. 

As part of its leadership transition, PSU named Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson as interim president, reporting directly to the college’s board of trustees. According to a news release, Hopson will oversee the college’s strategic initiatives as the Board launches a nationwide search for a new president. 

“On behalf of the board of trustees, I am grateful to Dr. Hopson for her willingness to serve Philander Smith University during this period of great transition,” said Philander Smith Board Chair Dr. Terry Esper. “As a board, we are committed to moving Philander Forward, and we will certainly be able to do so under her leadership.” 

Smothers was initially named the 14th president of the private Little Rock-based Historical Black College & University (HBCU) in October 2014 following a national search. He replaced former PSU President Walter Kimbrough, who left the Arkansas HBCU to take over the top position at Dillard University in New Orleans. 

Before taking over the top executive role at Philander Smith, Smothers served as vice president for institutional advancement at two HBCU universities: Huston Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, and Langston University in Langston, Okla. Hopson is chief equity officer and assistant general secretary of the Black College Fund (BCF) at the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) in Nashville, Tenn. 

“We are excited for Philander Smith University as Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson embarks on her new journey as the interim president of this prestigious institution of higher education,” said Rev. Greg Bergquist, General Secretary of the GBHEM. “Her expertise and passion for education have made an invaluable impact on the culture of GBHEM and United Methodist-related historically black colleges and universities across the United States.”

 Hopson earned a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University), a Master of Science in Journalism from Murray (KY) State University and a Ph.D. in Journalism from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill. She has served on the faculty of Lane College, Jackson, Tenn., Murray (KY) State University, and the University of Memphis. In addition to Dr. Hopson, Philander Smith’s board of trustees also appointed Gregory Hudson to a new position as interim executive vice president and COO. In this temporary role, Hudson will oversee the College’s day-to-day operations during the transition period. A PSU team member since 2019, Hudson serves as vice president for student affairs and enrollment management. 

Concerning the search for a new president, the Philander Smith 22-person board of trustees said it is in the process of defining the search committee and developing a description that aligns with the institution’s current needs and future goals. 

The board offered no timetable or details on how the national search would be conducted to hire a new president to lead the Arkansas HBCU.

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