Legacy of Leadership
Over the past 133 years since it was founded by Dr. Booker T. Washington in 1881, Tuskegee University has become one of the nation's most outstanding institutions of higher learning. While Tuskegee has historically focused on helping to develop human resources primarily within the African-American community, the University is open to all. Tuskegee's mission has always been service to people, not education for its own sake.
Stressing the need to educate the whole person -- the hand and the heart, as well as the mind -- Dr. Washington's school was soon acclaimed first by Alabama and then by the nation for the soundness and vigor of its educational programs and principles. This solid strength has continued through subsequent administrations of the late Drs. Robert Russa Moton (1915-1935), Frederick Douglass Patterson (1935-1953), Luther Hilton Foster (1953-1981) and during the administration of Dr. Benjamin Franklin Payton, who assumed responsibility as fifth president of the University on August 1, 1981. Leadership has continued through the administrations of Dr. Gilbert L. Rochon as 6th president, and Dr. Brian L. Johnson, as the 7th president of Tuskegee University.
Dr. Booker Taliaferro Washington
Booker T. Washington, born April 5, 1856, in Franklin County, Va., rose to national prominence following his challenge to the war ravaged South at the 1895 Atlanta Cotton Exposition. Dr. Washington was counsel to U.S. Presidents and instrumental in the development of American higher education. His autobiography, "Up From Slavery," was an instant classic. He founded Tuskegee in 1881 and served as its first president until his death on November 15, 1915.
Dr. Robert Russa Moton
Robert R. Moton, an advocate for American servicemen and women, traveled to France in support of Black soldiers during World War I. Dr. Moton worked with the federal government to establish the Tuskegee Veterans’ Administration Hospital on land donated by Tuskegee. At the demand of Moton, the hospital, which opened in 1923, was fully staffed by Black professionals – the first of its kind.
Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson
Dr. Frederick D. Patterson established the first program in veterinary medicine at an Historically Black College or University. Today nearly 75 percent of all Black veterinarians in America are Tuskegee graduates. Dr. Patterson also founded the United Negro College Fund and launched the Tuskegee Airmen project at Moton Field. The Airmen, America’s most proficient military fighter pilots, rarely lost a bomber under their escort to enemy fire.
Dr. Luther Hilton Foster, Jr.
Dr. Luther H. Foster led Tuskegee through the transformational years of the Civil Rights Movement. Student action, symbolized by student martyr and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee member Sammy Younge, as well as legal action represented by Gomillion v. Lightfoot (1960) attest to Tuskegee’s leadership in that pivotal era. The educational and economic empowerment models of Tuskegee laid the groundwork for the Movement.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin Payton
Dr. Benjamin Franklin Payton, Tuskegee's fifth president, continued the University's legacy of leadership. Payton, Chairman of President George W. Bush's Advisory Board on HBCUs, established the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee. He also oversaw the completion of a successful $169 million capital campaign that is building capacity for tomorrow's leaders by expanding housing, classroom and student activity facilities.
Dr. Gilbert Leonard Rochon
Dr. Gilbert L. Rochon served as sixth president of Tuskegee University from November 1, 2010 to October 19, 2013. Rochon vowed to "Bring the World to Tuskegee and Tuskegee to the World."