Dr. Ivory Nelson

Longtime academician Dr. Ivory V. Nelson, a three-time university president and one-time community college chancellor, has assumed the role of interim provost at Jackson State University.

He returned to the college scene at the behest of his protégé, new JSU President William B. Bynum Jr., who took the helm of the HBCU on July 1.

In 2000, Nelson, then the 12th president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania (1999-2011), hired Bynum as his vice president for student affairs and enrollment management.

At Lincoln, he displayed an extraordinary ability to turn the nation’s first degree-granting HBCU into a powerhouse institution after once being on the brink of collapse. During his tenure, he developed a five-year strategic plan for financing and phased construction that resulted in the elimination of operating deficits and repayment of outstanding loans and debts.

Ultimately, Lincoln was removed from financial aid probation, and Nelson secured $40.1 million in financing, $27 million in private financing and $290 million from the state of Pennsylvania for renovation and new construction.

Capping his career at Lincoln, the Board of Trustees named a $45 million building in his honor: The Ivory V. Nelson Science Center.

Prior to Lincoln, Nelson would become the first black president of Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington, from 1992 to 1999, and later president emeritus. During the early 1980s, he served as acting president of Prairie View A&M University for nine months.

A chemist and pioneering figure, Nelson began working in higher education in 1963. He’s known for other groundbreaking firsts.

Among these include:

  • First male graduate from Grambling State University to receive a Ph.D. (He graduated from Grambling in 1959 and received his doctorate in analytical chemistry from the University of Kansas, where he was the first black graduate from UK to receive such a degree in 1963)
  • First African-American to become chancellor of the Alamo Community College District in San Antonio, Texas (1986)
  • First black chemistry Ph.D. graduate to be inducted into Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Kansas (1964)
  • First African-American to become executive assistant to the chancellor of Texas A&M University System (1983)

Aside from being a graduate of an HBCU and working at Prairie View for 14 years, he spent three years at Southern University at Shreveport as chairman of the Division of Natural Sciences.

Also, Nelson is distinguished as a Fulbright scholar, recipient of a Phi Beta Kappa key and has published more than 12 technical articles on chemistry topics. As well, Nelson has been involved in numerous other fraternal organizations, including Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

While his lifelong career has been in academics, the U.S. Air Force veteran is quick to point out that running an educational institution is similar to a business.