EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Sept. 22, 2023) – Chancellor Harold L. Martin, Sr., who is in his 15th year as leader of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, will retire at the end of the 2023-24 school year, he announced this afternoon at a regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting.
Currently the longest serving chancellor in the 17-campus University of North Carolina System and among the nation’s 107 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU), Martin, 71, has had a high-impact, transformative 14-year tenure during which North Carolina A&T has become a highly impactful research institution and the nation’s leading producer of Black STEM graduates, as well as the largest HBCU in U.S. history. He has done so as the first alumnus to lead A&T.
His leadership has been recognized across the state and nationally — in a TIME magazine profile as a higher education thought leader, as winner of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s national Education Leader Award, as HBCU Digest’s “Most Influential” HBCU leader and as an honoree on the EBONY Power 100 list. In the Piedmont Triad, he has been named to the Triad Business Journal’s Power Players and Most Admired CEOs lists, among numerous other honors.
Martin will step down at the end of the 2023-24 academic year. A national search will be conducted for a successor, with details to be released in the near future.
“Harold Martin is the very model of a devoted, effective public servant. He’s a brilliant thinker, a disciplined leader and a great man,” said University of North Carolina System President Peter Hans. “For more than three decades, he’s been a friend, a mentor and an inspiration to students and colleagues across the UNC System.
“Under Harold’s leadership, North Carolina A&T has become one of the strongest and most impressive institutions in all of American higher education. He’s an Aggie legend — an alum who embodies the best of the A&T spirit and who helped grow his alma mater into a powerhouse of research, economic impact, and life-changing opportunity. It’s been a privilege to serve alongside him.”
Martin earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at A&T before completing his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech. While an undergraduate, he was a contemporary of the NASA astronaut Ronald McNair at A&T, who was one year ahead of him in a different bachelor’s program.
He immediately joined the A&T College of Engineering faculty and began a steady rise up the ranks of academia, becoming department chair, dean of the college and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs before landing his first chancellorship, at Winston-Salem State University in 2000. He held that post for nearly seven years, steering the university through a strong period of growth and development, before being named senior vice president of Academic Affairs for the UNC System in 2006.
In that role as the System’s chief academic officer, he served under President Erskine Bowles and developed a keen understanding of how policies and politics affect the 17 campuses of the system. When the chancellorship of A&T opened in 2009, he quickly became the unanimous choice for the position, which he accepted in May of that year, joining the university the following month.
“Throughout his 35-year career within the UNC System, Chancellor Martin has championed affordable, accessible public higher education, helped North Carolina A&T to become the largest HBCU in the nation and cemented the institution as an education and research leader in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said UNC Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey. “The impact of Chancellor Martin’s career is felt far and wide, and we are indebted to him for his service and commitment to our students. We offer our deepest thanks to the chancellor and wish him all the best for retirement.”
Martin’s entrepreneurial leadership of A&T has yielded a long list of major accomplishments, chief among them:
- A&T has become one of the fastest growing universities in America, during a time in which many institutions have suffered serious enrollment declines. From 2011-2021, applications to A&T grew at one of the fastest rates – 246% — of any doctoral research university in America. By way of comparison, UNC Chapel Hill recorded the second-highest application growth rate over the same period, 128%, roughly half A&T’s pace.
- Martin grew enrollment from 10,613 when he joined A&T to its current 13,883. Along the way, A&T became America’s largest HBCU in 2014 – a position it has held ever since. With its enrollment of 13,322 in 2021, A&T became the largest HBCU ever and has added more than 500 students to that distinction in the two years since. He has also overseen a sharp rise in academic performance, with first-year students now enrolling with an average 3.75 GPA and out-of-state applicants with an average GPA of 4.1.
- He laid critical foundations for A&T’s development, obtaining significant annual recurring funds to support its development as a doctoral, research university; opening and developing the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering; and working on A&T’s inclusion in a statewide bond issue that provided $90 million for what is now known as the Harold L. Martin Sr. Engineering Research and Innovation complex. Over the past four years, the university’s research and sponsored programs contracts and grants have grown by 138% to a record $147.4 million in FY2023.
- His development of A&T dramatically enhanced its economic impact. Measured with 2012 data, A&T’s footprint amounted to $978 million in a study undertaken by the UNC System. A new study released this year documents a $2.4 billion economic impact, much of it attributable to the exceptionally prepared STEM graduates that A&T produces for the North Carolina economy.
“Chancellor Martin’s greatest gift to our university has been the 14 years he has served as our CEO, providing steady, ambitious and wise leadership, always calling us to rise to the next challenge,” said outgoing A&T Board of Trustees Chair Hilda Pinnix-Ragland. “As a fellow alumnus of A&T, I can attest that his passion for this work is a reflection of his lifetime commitment to this special place. For many generations to come, Aggies will experience his legacy and benefit from the many things he did that opened the doors more widely for their success.
In a letter to campus released today, Martin thanked colleagues, alumni and supporters for their enthusiastic participation in A&T’s ambitious ascent over the past 14 years, even as he looked forward to further milestones the university will experience over his remaining eight months as chancellor and the road ahead for him and First Lady Davida Martin, the former long-serving county attorney for Forsyth County and first African American woman to serve in that capacity in North Carolina.
“Davida and I are very much looking forward to this next phase in our lives, as I join her in retirement – one that is filled with grandchildren and family, travel and adventure and many visits to Aggieland, where we will continue to be enthusiastic members of the Aggie Family,” he said. “She and I share a deep sense of gratitude for the enormous role that A&T has played in both our lives, a commitment to its strong and accomplished future and a great love for the many wonderful friends who make up our university.”