Dr. Harry L. Williams promises to work toward boosting enrollment and graduation rates as he is installed as 10th president of Delaware State University.

At the ceremony inaugurating Dr. Harry L. Williams as the new president of Delaware State University Sept. 17, board of trustees chairman and former acting president Dr. Claibourne Smith read out the names of the men who have led the institution since its founding in 1891.

The new president joins a list that includes Ivy Leaguers, lifelong educators, two chemists, a minister and a diplomat.

Smith said Williams, on the job since January, is a worthy addition to that highly qualified company of leaders.

“One hundred nineteen years later, here we are to install Dr. Harry Williams as the 10th president of Delaware State University,” he said. “We got it right.”

Before rising to the president’s office, Williams was DSU’s provost for two years. Prior to that, he served as an associate provost in the University of North Carolina system.

A career administrator, Williams’ first job was with his alma mater, Appalachian State University, nestled in the hills of western North Carolina.

During his tenure at DSU, Smith said he recognized Williams’ drive and determination.

“Dr. Williams is a man on a mission who has established a new mission for this university and a new vision,” he said. “He is without a doubt the leader that DSU needs and deserves.”

A parade of dignitaries praised the new president before Smith administered the oath of office and draped the university’s ceremonial medallion around Williams’ neck.

“He is humble,” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. “Someone told me he has the heart of a servant. He listens to people.”

Several speakers, including Gov. Jack Markell, praised Williams’ humility and cooperative leadership style.

“From the first moment you meet Harry Williams, you can tell he is different,” Markell said. “He’s got a great team behind him and he’s always the first to give them credit.”

Williams’ mentor, former Appalachian State Chancellor Dr. Harvey Durham, said that commitment to working together was something he tried to instill in his protégé.

“I told him that without a doubt the most important thing in any organization is people,” he said. “I am confident Dr. Williams listened well.”

In his inaugural address, Williams reiterated his pledge to improve DSU’s ranking among Historically Black Colleges and Universities by focusing on academics.

“I’m totally committed to protecting the academic core of this university,” he said.

Williams also said he’ll work to boost enrollment and improve graduation rates.

With comparatively small endowments and limited scholarship funds available, many HBCUs have struggled to keep their students in school through graduation. But, Williams said DSU has to find ways to do better.

“It has always been Historically Black Colleges and Universities that have modeled for America how to do more with less,” he said.

Quoting from the speeches given by previous DSU presidents when they were installed in the office, Williams promised to respect the traditions and history of DSU while working toward the future of the institution.

He said the university must be prepared to recognize progress and achieve it.

“When you have an opportunity, you seize it,” he said. “You never know when that will happen.”

Email Doug Denison at doug.denison@doverpost.com.