By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston was introduced to the community, faculty, and students on Fe. 24 as Norfolk State University’s (NSU’s) 7th President.
Dr. Debra Dicroce, the co-chair of the 22-member search committee, and NSU Rector Joan G Wilmer told the GUIDE there were 75 candidates who applied for the presidency and Adams-Gaston was among the final four.
Adams-Gaston will replace Dr. Melvin Stith, who has been interim leader of the school since the exodus of Eddie N. Moore, who retired.
Adams-Gaston is affectionately called “Dr. J” by students at Ohio State University (OSU) where she is currently Senior Vice President for Student Life; the first Black woman to hold such a position.
She has the responsibility for over 40 departments affecting more than 66,000 students at the school.
News of her appointment surfaced the evening of Tuesday, February 19, as leaks from various members of the search operation began to reach the GUIDE staff.
She will be NSU’s 7th President and the third woman to be hired for the position. Dr. Marie V. McDemmond was the first and the second was Dr. Caroline Myers.
Prior to OSU, Adams-Gaston served at the University of Maryland, College Park,(UMCP) as the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, executive director of the Career Center, equity administrator, psychologist, and the first UMCP African American assistant athletic director.
During a press conference, after she was introduced as NSU’s new President, Adams-Gaston said she was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area. She also has a Hampton Roads connection, for her mother Evelyn J. Snipes-Adams lived in Portsmouth.
Dr. Adams-Gaston earned a bachelors’ degree in biology, psychology and general science at the University of Dubuque; a master’s degree in psychology at Loras College; and a Doctorate in Psychology at Iowa State University.
She spent 25 years in private practice as a psychologist.
During her introduction, it was mentioned that her son is a recent graduate of Howard University, and she has a sister who is a member of that school’s faculty.
She is married to Dmitri Gaston. The couple has three adult children. He served as a planner and management analyst for the city for Washington, D. C. for over 25 years and is currently a planner at OSU.
“I have deep roots in Norfolk State University,” she said. “But it is wonderful to have the opportunity…indeed the privilege to be your 7th university president…thank you very much.”
In her opening remarks, Adams-Gaston acknowledged the level of applause for Interim President Stith, “for him and the work he has done.”
“Each day I will strive to do the same as we move the university onward, upward and forward with the work and support from each of you,” said Adams-Gaston. “I am here as a servant leader. I am here to serve the needs of this community because we have so much we can do together. We together are the bright future of what higher education has to offer.”
“What is happening at NSU is amazing,” she said to a capacity crowd of students, faculty, and alumni in the school’s Student Center. “I see what is happening and we will continue to present the students with the experience to prepare our NSU diverse student body for the job opportunities after they leave.”
Adams-Gaston pointed out it is important that NSU should be a success not only at attracting students to the campus but retaining and assuring they graduate.
“One of my priorities as president… is always about the quality of each individual student experience,” she continued. “And you (NSU) have been on that march to ensure that each student has a quality experience.”
Adams-Gaston said that “our faculty and staff are the engines that make this work. Our dedication to teaching, research, and engagement assure that we can meet our goals.”
“We will work together to provide the best opportunity for faculty and staff to have the tools you will need to meet your personal excellence,” she said. “We need you. I need you. We will continue to enhance…to be a forward-thinking higher education institution with a 21st century mission to connecting career, work research, and industry. Those things are changing with an unprecedented pace.”
Adams-Gaston referenced that a recent Gallop Poll predicted that college graduates will have “seven to nine careers….not jobs” during their working life.
“We must prepare… our students to pivot into those careers,” she said. “This institution will look for the brightest minds.”
She said that in the coming decades, over 30 percent of the current jobs will not exist. But NSU will continue to prepare its students for those “new jobs and opportunities…so our students will be well prepared.”
NSU’s newest president said, “We want our students to be critical thinkers… students who understand as they move forward they will need also to be excellent communicators….to demonstrate they can work on teams with people from anywhere in the world.”
Adams-Gaston noted NSU is emphasizing “the ABCs — Arts, Business and Cybersecurity” in its “strategic plan” so that faculty, staff, and students will forge onward to work together…as one part upholds and supports the other.
She said that the rich heritage of an HBCU, such as NSU, “was one of the reasons why I considered the presidency here.”
“I am so pleased to be selected as president so we can be the HBCU for the modern world,” she continued, “building on our rich legacy…we have to remember our history and heritage.”
She said she has an aunt “who graduated from this very institution and she is very proud.”
“It is important that we see ourselves beyond the walls of this institution and we are engaged and supportive of our community. That is where we will draw strength and do great things for our world. Each one of you matters greatly.
“We will all pull together to ensure the bright future of Norfolk State University as the premier institution in the nation and, in fact, the world, a premier HBCU and University.
“Behold the Green and Gold.”