Delaware Business Times recently checked in with Dr. Harry L. Williams, president of Delaware State University. DSU recently announced that Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will deliver remarks to the school’s 700 graduates at its May 7 Commencement Ceremony. The event will also launch the celebration of DSU’s 125th anniversary as an institution of higher education.
You’ve been DSU’s president since 2010. What’s one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you took the role of president?
The one thing I didn’t fully grasp is that it is truly a 24-hour job, 365 days out of the year. Every moment, I am the president of Delaware State University. In terms of understanding the magnitude of that, I don’t know that you could truly grasp that until you are in the position. Wherever I go, I am representing the University. How I act, how I carry myself, I am always representing the brand the University.
Delaware State University is one of just 107 HBCUs in the country. How do you explain the value of that to this generation’s rising freshman?
The one word I use to explain that is “excellence.” If I had to add another word, it would be “quality.” That is what people want and that is what you get when you come to Del State. DSU is among the institutions that represent the best of the HBCUs in this country.
There has to be a lot of pressure as president of a university. What’s one of your favorite Delaware pastimes or places to go to refresh or unwind?
I like to get up before I go to work and go about 10 miles north from the campus to the Smyrna Diner and have breakfast. I use that as a place to get my thoughts together for the day that is ahead of me. It’s a good way for me to get my day started.
What advice would you give to others on track to executive level or leadership positions in the business/education community?
Make sure you have balance in your life. There should be balance between your family, your work, your faith and your community, and keep them in their right perspective. If there is a lack of balance in any of those areas, it can affect the quality and success of the other areas. Balance can make life a happy process.
What’s been one of the challenges for DSU over the last six years?
The biggest challenge we have had to grapple with is the budget and making sure that we manage our resources we have and that we are good stewards of the funding support we get from the state. Everyone has had to deal with these tough economic times, but we have been able to weather it during these last six years.
What do you think are DSU’s strengths?
We are celebrating 125 years and it is all because of the people that are here and the love that they have for this institution. The human capital is the biggest strength of this institution.
DSU recently announced that Vice President Joe Biden will be this year’s commencement speaker — that’s pretty amazing. What are your thoughts?
It is great for our graduates. For them to have the vice president of the United States to come and close out their academic years at DSU is the capstone of their University experience. It is also gives our students some bragging rights.
If you could describe your work as president of DSU in two words, what would they be?