Prezell Russell Robinson
Administrator & Educator
When Prezell Russell Robinson retired after 28 years as president in 1995, he had achieved his goal of taking a small and largely unknown historically black college and transforming it into a nationally known institution and one of the best colleges of its size in North Carolina. From undergraduate student to professor of sociology to dean and, ultimately, to president, Robinson has been a guiding light for St. Augustine College, located in the city of Raleigh, North Carolina. Believing that educational institutions must exist on a sound financial footing, Robinson operated with a balanced budget during each year of his presidency. He was an energetic fundraiser and was responsible for the endowment at St. Augustine increasing from less than one million to nineteen million dollars. In 1988, he was voted by his peers as one of the most effective college presidents in the United States. The academic and social significance of the historically black college is very important to Robinson. “St. Aug’s has some of the top minds among young Blacks,” he says. “Had it not been for places like St. Augustine, where would the black community of 30 or 40 years ago have gotten its doctors, lawyers, and teachers'” He maintains that St. Augustine and other historically black colleges and universities are beacons for freedom and justice in a country often riddled with discrimination. Robinson has had first hand experience of the problem. During his youth, the schools for African-Americans in his hometown of Batesburg, South Carolina offered no more than a tenth grade education. The eighth of nine children, he traveled to Voorhees College to attend the high school department for African-Americans run by the Episcopal Church. After graduating from high school and junior college at Voorhees, he served in the United States Army during the Second World War. Subsequently, he earned a B.A. degree at St. Augustine and a master’s degree and a doctorate in rural education and rural sociology-economics at Cornell University. Known to be gentle yet persuasive, Robinson has extolled the virtues of education throughout the nation and the world. His achievements have been recognized at the highest level. In 1992, President George Bush appointed him to serve as an alternate delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. He was nominated to the same post by President Bill Clinton in 1996. For many years, he has been selected by the U.S. State Department and the Department of Education to lecture and assist in educational endeavors in Africa, the Caribbean and the People’s Republic of China. Regarded as an eminent scholar as well as an outstanding administrator, Robinson has published articles in many professional journals. He is Vice-Chairman of the North Carolina Board of Education, and has served on the United Negro College Fund, the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, the International Association of University Presidents and the Board of Trustees of Voorhees College. He is an active member of the Episcopal church and the Episcopal Church Pension Fund. Numerous honors from civic, fraternal, educational and governmental bodies have been bestowed upon Prezell Robinson, including the Star of Africa Liberia’s second highest award. He has received ten honorary degrees, from leading colleges and universities including his alma maters, Voorhees College and Saint Augustine. Since his retirement, Robinson has been bestowed with the title of President Emeritus by the Board of Trustees of Saint Augustine’s College.