Press Release

NC A&T’s Chancellor-Elect Vows To Exceed Expectations

A civil engineer from a rural southern town has been tapped to lead the nation’s largest historically Black college and university (HBCU). James R. Martin II has been named the 13th Chancellor of North Carolina Agriculture & Technical State University (A&T) in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The University of North Carolina (UNC) System Board of Governors’ Committee on Personnel made the announcement June 21 at a press conference, noting that Martin is an “accomplished academic, administrator and civil engineer” who has served at three large public research institutions: Clemson University, Virginia Tech, and the University of Pittsburgh, where he is currently vice chancellor of STEM Innovation and Research.

“I’m thrilled to be here. It is certainly my purpose to exceed these expectations that have been set,” Martin said during the press conference.

There appears to be concern, however, from “three search committee members,” according to The Assembly, that the Chancellor-elect will lead the nation’s largest HBCU “despite never having attended, taught at, or led an HBCU.”

According to The Assembly, “There were candidates who had that experience, of the culture of the HBCU, who were products of the HBCU,” one search committee member said. “I would not say it is disqualifying if that’s not the case. But we have had a lot of success with leaders who come from A&T and who come from the world and the culture of HBCUs.”

Meanwhile, Search Advisory Committee Chair Hilda Pinnix-Ragland, who is former chair of the A&T Board of Trustees, stated: “From the beginning, Dr. Martin emerged as a leading candidate in his background, preparation and the vision he articulated for A&T. He will be an outstanding leader for our university.”

Martin earned his B.S. in civil engineering from The Citadel and his master’s and Ph.D. in civil engineering are from Virginia Tech. As a dean at Pittsburgh, Martin oversaw an engineering program with 2,900 undergraduates, 850 graduate students and 200 faculty, according to his profile

. There, he raised research dollars by 50%, built strategic partnerships with industry and government, and increased diversity, enrollment and graduation rates. Previously, he chaired the civil engineering department at Clemson and was founding executive director of Clemson’s Risk Engineering and Systems Analytics Institute (RESA).

A scholar in disaster risk engineering and earthquake science, Martin has conducted global research in earthquake zones, leading to stronger building codes in the United States. He has provided international engineering consulting for nearly 100 firms and government agencies.

He will now lead A&T, a land grant, doctoral research university with a national reputation in STEM education, which has more than 13,500 students and 70,000-plus alumni.

According to a statement from the UNC System, Martin’s “numerous national, state and university awards for research, teaching, scholarship, and service include the American Society of Civil Engineer’s Norman Medal, the highest honor for published work in his field. He was also inducted into the Virginia Tech Department of Civil Engineering’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2015.”

Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. — no relation to James Martin II — announced in September 2023 that he would retire at the end of the current academic year, departing after 15 years as the longest-serving Chancellor of the UNC system. A national search was then launched, where members of the A&T Search Advisory Committee were announced Oct. 4 by UNC System President Peter Hans. A series of listening sessions with internal and external constituents in January complemented an online public input survey, also launched in October.

According to the university, A&T’s Board of Trustees recommended three unranked candidates to Hans, who nominated a single candidate at the June 21 Board of Governors Meeting.

During the press conference, James Martin II spoke of his childhood, growing up near Union, a small, rural South Carolina town, driving a tractor to see how it led from Upstate, South Carolina into North Carolina; and proverbially, how the path of higher education has been transformative.

“What motivates me is that higher education serves as the platform for upward social mobility,” Martin said during the press conference. “Getting a degree in engineering, for me, allowed me to transform not only my life, but I was able to transform the life of my entire family, and neighborhoods; the folks I interact with. If you really want to change a life, if you want to change a household, if you want to change a community, change the relationship with learning.”

Martin’s appointment as Chancellor will begin on Aug. 15. 

RELATED CONTENT: North Carolina Central University Adds 4 Stellar Senior Executives To Growing Leadership Team 

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