Guyanese academician gets top post at major university

Dr. Leon C. Wilson.
Photo courtesy of Alabama State University

A leading Guyanese-born academician has been promoted to a top position at a major university in the United States.

Dr. Leon C. Wilson, formerly the dean of Alabama State University (ASU) College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, has been promoted to ASU’s interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, according to ASU’s president, Dr. William H. Harris.

Wilson had served as dean of ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences since 2011.

Founded in 1867, ASU is a historically black university located in Montgomery, Ala.

“Dr. Wilson is a very seasoned academic administrator and is highly prepared to help to lead the University during this time,” Dr. Harris said. “We look forward to his tenure in this position.”

Wilson, who was born in West Coast Berbice, Guyana, told Caribbean Life that “any career elevation of any sort is never a singular effort.

“I am ever grateful to those who have helped along the way. From the time my grade school teacher (in Guyana, Gwendoline Reynolds) convinced my parents to ‘send me away’ from the countryside in search of better educational opportunities in New Amsterdam (Guyana), the climb has been steady,” he said.

“The drive for excellence is influenced by my convictions that maximizing one’s gifts is a spiritual responsibility,” he added. “But accomplishments for me have always been a call to service.”

Dr. Wilson said academic leadership, in the context of shrinking budgets and greater demands for excellence, is daunting, adding, however, that ASU is “ready for the challenge.

“I would not have accepted this responsibility if I were not convinced that we have the will and capacity to make a difference,” he said.

“I will be deliberate about elevating the rich academic and professional legacies of ASU as the renewed catalyst for our future directions, and we will be a player that is imperative for educational change in this country,” he added.

In making the announcement, Dr. Harris also praised the work of interim associate provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, Dr. Sharron Herron-Williams, who “has helped to provide administrative leadership and support to the mission of the provost’s office for several months.”

Dr. Wilson received his Master of Arts (M.A.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D) in sociology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1986 and 1989, respectively.

He majored in social psychology, with a minor in social organization, and had significant advanced training in statistics.

He also holds an M.A. in religion and counseling from Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Mich., and a Bachelor of Theology from Caribbean Union College (now University of the Southern Caribbean), Trinidad.

Before moving to East Carolina University as professor and chair of the Department of Sociology, Dr. Wilson spent almost 20 years at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., in the ranks of assistant professor to professor, and as Department Chair for seven years.

Dr. Wilson has taught courses in advanced statistical application, social psychology, family and applied sociology.

He said he has either chaired or participated in more than 70 Ph. D dissertations and master’s thesis projects, stating that he is very proud of his mentoring history.

His research applies statistical models to understand the relationship of structural, interactional and socioeconomic factors to social, psychological, health and mental health outcomes in families, especially adolescents. His publications, which reflect these interests, appear in national and international journals.

Dr. Wilson has conducted some of the larger survey research projects on families and adolescents in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

The most recent are Adolescent Health and Protective Factors in Guyana (2012), Media Habits in Guyana (2007-08) and Youth Trends in Trinidad and Tobago (2009).

Dr. Wilson regularly contributes to and presents at U.S. national and international conferences, and is the recipient of several research, teaching, mentoring and civic awards.

“I take this opportunity to congratulate my mentor and lifelong friend, Dr. Leon Wilson, on his promotion,” Dr. Janice Emanuel-Bunn, a Guyanese-born professor at the University of Phoenix, AZ., told Caribbean Life.

“He has always distinguished himself as a dedicated administrator who goes beyond the call of duty and a teacher who understands the needs of students, and motivates them to achieve academic excellence,” she added.

Dr. Emanuel-Bunn said Dr. Wilson’s work in Guyana, the Caribbean and around the world has “surely made a difference.”

“Success to you as you assume your new position,” she urged Dr. Wilson.

More from Around NYC