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Harris-Stowe State University appoints first Black woman president

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Dr. LaTonia Collins Smith

Dr. LaTonia Collins Smith is the first Black woman president of Harris-Stowe State University (HSSU).

ST. LOUIS ( -- Harris-Stowe State University (HSSU) has announced Dr. Latonia Collins Smith as the 21st President of the university. 

Dr. Collins Smith is the first Black woman President of HSSU. She follows the legacy of Ruth Harris, the first Black woman President of Stowe Teachers College in 1940. 

She was appointed the Interim President in June 2021 and now plans to assume the Presidency in March. Her higher education career began at HSSU in 2010. She now has more than 20 years of progressive leadership experience.

Dr. Collins Smith previously served as the co-principal investigator of a $5 million National Science Foundation grant to strengthen STEM in Missouri. She also serves as chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Statewide Celebration Commission of Missouri. 

During her time as Interim President, the university raised more than $3.5 million in scholarships, donations, and grants. In 2020-2021, HSSU graduated with its largest class in the university's history and increased its six year graduation rate by 6.3 percent. 

"Dr. Collins Smith exemplifies Harris-Stowe’s core values of Personal Growth, Respect, Innovation, Diversity, and Excellence. She has demonstrated her extraordinary ability to connect with all of our stakeholders and to catapult Harris-Stowe forward in these critical times," said Michael McMillan, chair of the Board of Regents. 

Dr. Collins Smith has received multiple awards, including the Frankie Muse Freeman/Norman R. Seay Commitment to St. Louis Award with McMillan at the St. Louis City NAACP 110th Anniversary Celebration and Freedom Fund Dinner. She is also the mother of state Rep. Kimberly Ann Collins and Alderman John Collins Muhammad. 

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