Trump Names Former NFL Player Johnathan Holifield as Head of HBCU Initiative

Johnathan Holifield, the incoming director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, speaks at the White House complex on Sept. 18 in Washington. (Andrew Harnik / AP)
Johnathan Holifield, the incoming director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, speaks at the White House complex on Sept. 18 in Washington. (Andrew Harnik / AP)

The White House announced Monday that former Cincinnati Bengals running back and tech entrepreneur Johnathan Holifield will lead its initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, a move that garnered praise from some who had expressed concern over the Trump administration’s commitment to those schools.

Speaking to a packed room of over 200 students, college presidents and administration officials during the opening ceremony of the annual White House summit on HBCUs, Holifield expressed his optimism for the initiative and said he is thankful for the opportunity to serve.

“There is no patent to sustain new job creation, shared prosperity, and enduring national competitiveness without the current and increased contributions of historically black colleges and universities,” Holifield said.

In a statement, President Donald Trump praised Holifield’s business experience and said Holifield will “lead the movement to strengthen the capacity of HBCUs to provide a high-quality education.”

Omarosa Manigault Newman, assistant to the president and director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, said Holifield was chosen because he has “experience, temperament, is incredibly engaging, and knows his stuff.”

Holifield is co-founder of ScaleUp Partners, a company that aims to advance “inclusive competitiveness throughout the U.S” and former president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Cleveland as well as a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He is an alumni of West Virginia University, the University of Cincinnati, and a graduate of The University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute — none of which are HBCUs.

Ahead of the official White House announcement, some stakeholders were skeptical of Holifield’s lack of educational experience with HBCUs.

But on Monday, Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, said he was pleased with the Trump administration’s choice.

“We look forward to learning how [Holifield] will champion meaningful actions to advance HBCUs and ensure that more African-American students have the opportunity to go to and through college,” Lomax said in a statement.

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SOURCE: CHANDELIS R. DUSTER 
NBC News