New chancellor announced for NC A&T. Here’s who will lead the country’s largest HBCU.

James Martin, an engineer with more than 30 years of experience in higher education, will be the 13th chancellor of North Carolina A&T State University — a job in which he will lead the country’s largest historically Black university.

Martin will join A&T from his current role as vice chancellor for STEM research and innovation at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was previously dean of the university’s engineering school. With a research background in risk engineering and earthquake science, he began his career as a professor at Virginia Tech before becoming an engineering department chair at Clemson University.

He will begin his new role Aug. 15.

The UNC System Board of Governors named Martin for the role in a special meeting Friday, approving system President Peter Hans’ nomination. The search process to find the university’s next leader began last fall, after Chancellor Harold Martin — the longest-serving current chancellor in the 17-campus UNC System — announced he would retire at the end of the academic year.

James Martin will take the helm from Harold Martin — no relation — at a time of consistent, record growth for A&T. The Greensboro university is one of the fastest-growing in the country, and for 10 consecutive years has been the nation’s largest HBCU by enrollment. Its enrollment in each of the past three academic years, including a total enrollment last fall of more than 13,800 students, has made it the largest-ever HBCU.

James Martin is introduced Friday, June 21, 2024, as the 13th chancellor of North Carolina A&T State University.
James Martin is introduced Friday, June 21, 2024, as the 13th chancellor of North Carolina A&T State University.

“I’m grateful to say that we are not here to mark the end of the Martin era, but a renewal,” Hans said Friday. “As we look ahead to this university’s continued growth and rising prospects, we have the honor of welcoming a leader with a sharp sense of how to build on the successes of the last 15 years.”

Under Harold Martin’s leadership, the university propelled its research portfolio and economic impacts, becoming “the nation’s top producer of African American graduates in engineering, liberal arts, agricultural science and journalism,” according to a university biography.

James Martin will likely lead the university into a new era as it aims to become an “R1” doctoral university — or one with very high research activity, according to the Carnegie Classification system. He said in a news release he was excited to lead a university that is “a recognized national leader in harnessing technology and access to learning to unlock human potential.”

“Our students, faculty, staff and alumni are on an incredible ascent, having accomplished so much in recent years,” he said. “I look forward to joining them on that journey and ensuring that we continue to build on A&T’s exceptional momentum as we set ambitious new sights for the months and years ahead.”

A graduate of the Citadel and Virginia Tech with degrees in civil engineering, James Martin did not attend an HBCU, nor has he worked at or led one. But Hans on Friday highlighted a slew of other qualities Martin holds, predicting that his past leadership experiences and research would serve him well in the role.

The new chancellor “recognizes all of those challenges” facing higher education today, Hans said, “and he isn’t deterred by any of them.”

“It’s reassuring, in fact, to be nominating someone with the confidence and expertise in the field of risk management, because chancellors don’t just lay the groundwork for success and achievement,” Hans said, “they also work hard to manage and mitigate the many challenges that come with running a small city.”

James Martin will be the 13th chancellor of North Carolina A&T State University.
James Martin will be the 13th chancellor of North Carolina A&T State University.

A UNC System news release did not disclose how many candidates applied for the A&T chancellorship, but stated that the national search “drew a highly competitive field.”

“It was gratifying to see a certain standard of quality in leadership throughout the field,” search committee chair Hilda Pinnix-Ragland, former chair of the A&T Board of Trustees, said in the release. “From the beginning, Dr. Martin emerged as a leading candidate in his background, preparation and the vision he articulated for A&T. He will be an outstanding leader for our university.”

Three chancellorships in the UNC System remain open following Thursday’s election of Martin. A search at UNC-Chapel Hill is ongoing, while searches at Appalachian State University and Elizabeth City State University are expected to begin in the coming months.