Dr. George and Valerie Wright, President of Prairie View A & M Univ.
L to R: Lonnie & Charlene Bunkley; Valerie & George Wright
(ALL PHOTO CREDITS: MALCOLM ALI)
As president of Prairie View A & M University, Wright is focused on keeping the lines of communications open and strong between the alumni and the university
Dr. George C. Wright is the seventh president of Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), the second oldest public institution of higher education in Texas, and he says, “education is the engine of change,” and that is his focus of his leadership at the university, “unlocking the door for Black people.” Dr. Wright is reaching out to the school alumni throughout the country because he believes that relationship is the strength of the university. “The best part of my job is interacting with alumni,” he said.
Furthermore, Dr. Wright travels the country interacting with the alumni, getting and keeping them involved in every aspect as it relates to fundraising for the capital campaign for scholarship for students; endowment for professors and his most ambitious undertaking: the building of a sports complex.
Recently, Lonnie and Charlene Bunkley, both alumni of PVAMU hosted Dr. Wright, his wife Valerie and Roy G. Perry, chairman/president of PVAM Foundation at their home for the expressed purpose of a gathering of the alumni. There Dr. Wright and Perry gave some insight into their plans, goals and objectives in furthering the academic and athletic work at PVAMU.
Dr. Wright has been at the helm of PVAMU for eight years and since then the student numbers have increased from 6,500 to 9,000. Under Dr. Wright’s leadership, the school has improved the quality of producing thousands of African American engineers, nurses and educators, and its dedication to fulfilling its land-grant mission of achieving excellence in teaching, research and service.
In Dr. Wright’s own words, he explains his vision for PVAMU so that he leaves, the path for others to follow would be much clearer than before. According to Dr. Wright, “Second only to his belief in God is the power of education.” For as he continued, “Education opens so many doors and we have to leave something for the young people who are coming behind us. We have young people who don’t know how good you are; we have to leave something worthwhile behind for them.
“Education is not just a college degree,” he emphasized, “it also an appreciation of culture … a knowledge and appreciation of those who came before us. In the case of Prairie View, I want them to know it’s their university, and they need to help us move it to the next level.”
Then Perry chimed in, “We are undertaking a 15,000 seat football stadium, with a total cost of $67 million for Phase One. We have to be ready with 50 percent of the cost before construction can begin.” He also stated that if each alumnus would donate just $1 per month, it would be a done deal. And as a product of an HBCU, Perry believes that those who have benefited have a responsibility to help and to tell others.
As a trained historian, Dr. Wright understands how vital Black colleges are in producing future leaders …In addition
Prior to joining the Prairie View A&M University family, Dr. Wright was Executive Vice-President for academic affairs and provost at the University of Texas at Arlington. Prior to assuming that post, he was provost and vice president for academic affairs with increasing responsibilities from 1995 to 1998. In 1993, he joined the faculty at Duke University as vice provost for university programs and director of the Afro-American studies program at Duke University. At Duke, he also held the William R. Kenan, Jr., Chair in American History. From 1980 to 1993, he served as an assistant professor, associate professor, professor, and was the holder of the Mastin Gentry White Professorship of Southern History, and vice provost for undergraduate education at the University of Texas at Austin. His wealth of experience in higher education began as an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky in 1977.
To his credit, Dr. Wright is the author of three books, which include: A History of Blacks in Kentucky: In Pursuit of Equality, 1890-1980, Volume II; Racial Violence in Kentucky, 1865-1940: Lynchings, Mob Rule, and “Legal Lynchings”, and the Life Behind a Veil: Blacks in Louisville, Kentucky, 1865-1930. He was presented the Governors Award by the Kentucky Historical Society for Lynchings, Mob Rule, and “Legal Lynchings”, and the Life Behind a Veil: Blacks in Louisville, Kentucky. He currently has another book in progress, a biography of Robert Charles O’Hara Benjamin: A “Forgotten” Afro-American Leader and has published numerous articles, chapters in books and essays.
Active in his community, Dr. Wright has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the City of Arlington Chamber Foundations and the Medical Center of Arlington. He has also served as a member of the Editorial Board for the Southern Biography Series at Louisiana State University, the Board of Editors of the Journal of Southern History and the Southern Historical Association Program Committee.
A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Dr. Wright received his bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in history from the University of Kentucky and his doctorate in history from Duke University. In 2004 Dr. Wright was awarded an honorary doctorate of Letters from the University of Kentucky.