For Black History Month, the AFRO presents a series of articles highlighting important local heroes from the community. This week we sit with Leonard Haynes III, a man who has devoted his life to fighting for the survival of HBCUs.
Dr. Leonard Haynes III, senior director of Institutional Service at the U.S. Department of Education, is set to retire on Feb. 26. Even though he said he will step away from full-time work, he said he will still fight for the survival of Black higher education institutions. “I grew up in a family where Black colleges were embraced and celebrated,” Haynes said, noting that his father, the Rev. Leonard Haynes Jr., attended what is now Huston-Tillotson College in Austin and the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, and served as dean of instruction at Claflin University in South Carolina in the 1950s.
Haynes told the AFRO that he will take some time off for rest and relaxation and then he will decide what he will do next, which will likely be in some volunteer capacity to HBCUs. He said he is also considering other options such as part-time teaching.
Haynes holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; a master’s degree in history from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a doctorate from The Ohio State University. “It is the Black church and the Black college that has benefitted our people since slavery ended,” he said. “One must understand that after slavery we didn’t get reparations and we didn’t have a reconciliation commission where we sat down with White people and asked how we were going to make living together peaceably work.”
Haynes served as acting president of Grambling State University in Louisiana from 1997-1998 and served as the executive vice president of the Southern University system in the 1980s and has worked as the senior assistant to the president of American University in D.C. from 1994-1995.
He was appointed by President George H.W. Bush as the first Black assistant secretary for postsecondary education in 1989 and in 1991 he was transferred to the director of academic programs for the United States Information Agency until 1993.
Haynes worked in the Education Department under Secretary Rodney Paige and was a member of the senior executive service and the director of the fund for the improvement of postsecondary education as well. Eventually, Haynes served as the executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities in 2007.
He left the Initiative to take on the job he will be retiring from later this month.
There are 107 HBCUs and according to a recent study commissioned by the United Negro College Fund, they produce 70 percent of all Black doctors and dentists, 50 percent of Black engineers and public school teachers, and 35 percent of Black lawyers. Haynes said that Black institutions instill a sense of purpose and a nurturing environment for its students.
“At a Black college, you don’t need to figure out who you are,” Haynes said. “If Black colleges didn’t exist, they would have to be created. Black colleges do great things but think of what they could do if they had the resources.”
Haynes said Howard University, alone among all HBCUs, has received a federal appropriation for almost 100 years in the federal budget. “That’s great for Howard, but all Black colleges should receive a similar level of support,” he said, emphasizing that the colleges have not made the type of progress he would have hoped.
Haynes has received 13 honorary degrees from universities around the country, said that he will continue to work to support Black colleges during his retirement. “I may be retiring from working but not from the battlefield,” he said. “I can do my part on the outside because I know how the inside works.”