He becomes UHD’s second Black leader
Dr. Antonio Tillis, a highly regarded scholar in Latin American, Afro-Latin American and African Diaspora studies, took the helm as interim president of the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) last month.
He is the second Black person to lead the university, founded in 1974. Dr. J. Don Boney served from 1975 until his death in 1979. Tillis replaces Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz, who became the new chancellor of the University of California, Merced (UC Merced) last month as well.
The UHD student body, which exceeds 14,000, is half Hispanic, 20 percent Black and 14 percent Anglo, according to University of Houston System data. UH-Downtown, which has one of the lowest tuition rates among state colleges and universities, offers bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees.
“UH-Downtown plays a unique and increasingly valuable role in the higher education landscape of this area,” Tillis said in a statement. “The student body reflects the rich diversity of Greater Houston, while the institution provides our community with affordable and accessible academic resources and career opportunities. I look forward to continuing the admirable achievements of President Muñoz and his predecessors.”
Tillis joined the UH System in 2017, upon becoming dean of the University of Houston’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLASS), the largest college at the system’s flagship campus in Third Ward.
“Dean Tillis’ passion for student success, coupled with his administrative experience and scholarly accomplishments, establish him as one of the rising stars in higher education. His track record leading the University of Houston’s largest college, with more than 12,000 students, clearly demonstrates his ability to take on this challenge and succeed,” said Dr. Renu Khator, chancellor of the UH System, which oversees both UH and UHD. “We’re fortunate to have an educator of his caliber in this position.”
Tillis, who earned a doctorate in Latin American literature from the University of Missouri, has been a sought-after leader for other top posts recently. He was among three finalists this spring for the Michigan State University provost opening.
Previously, Tillis was dean of the School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs at the College of Charleston. He also held academic positions at Purdue University and Dartmouth University, where he was the chair of African and African American Studies, and won a Professor of the Year award in 2012.
A national search for a permanent UHD president will begin this summer, Khator said.
Tillis would be considered “assuming he expresses interest,” Mike Rosen, Associate Vice Chancellor/Associate Vice President of Strategic Communications for the UH System, said in an email.
The UH System has four separate institutions: University of Houston, as well as UHD, University of Houston-Clear Lake and University of Houston-Victoria.