About Us

Tuskegee University is an independent and state-related institution of higher education.  Its programs serve a student body that is coeducational as well as racially, ethnically and religiously diverse.


Dr. Benjamin Franklin Payton

Dr. Benjamin Franklin Payton is the son of Mrs. Sarah M. Payton and the late Reverend Leroy R. Payton.

Payton received the B.A. degree with honors from South Carolina State University in 1955; the B.D. degree from Harvard University in 1958; the M.A. degree from Columbia University in 1960; and the Ph.D. degree from Yale University in 1963.

Tuskegee's fifth President and serving since 1981, Payton worked to continue the University's legacy of leadership. During his tenure, he has:

  • Established the Gen. Daniel "Chappie" James Center for Aerospace Science Engineering and Health Education;
  • Launched Tuskegee University's first Ph.D. programs (Materials Science and Engineering and Integrated Biosciences);
  • Developed the Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care;
  • Launched the Tuskegee University C. Alfred "Chief" Anderson Department of Aviation Science;
  • Developed the Tuskegee University Kellogg Conference Center;
  • Restructured the academic programs into five colleges and reorganized all programs;
  • Successfully completed a $150 million Capital Campaign by raising $169 million and is now completing an additional $60 million campaign, the Legacy Campaign.
  • Reconstructed and renovated the entire campus, including new parking, roadways, library, science building, student residence halls and apartments for student on-campus living; and enclosed it all with beautiful brick and cast-iron fences and gates, including a dramatic new set of campus entrances and exits.

Prior to joining Tuskegee, Dr. Payton was program officer, Higher Education and Research, The Ford Foundation, New York City (1972-81); president of Benedict College, Columbia, S.C. (1967-72); executive director, Commission on Religion and Race and the Department of Social Justice of the National Council of Churches in the U.S.A. (1966-67); director, Office of Church and Race, Protestant Council of the City of New York (1965-66); and assistant professor, Howard University and director of the Howard University Community Service Project, Washington, D.C. (1963-65).

In recognition of his leadership, intellectual and scholarly achievements, as well as his dedicated service to education, Payton has received many honors and honorary degrees. He was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002 to chair the newly-formed Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. This was Payton's third presidential appointment. He was also appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development and named by President George W. Bush to lead the Task Force on Agricultural and Economic Development to Zaire.

Other honors include: the Danforth Graduate Fellowship (1955-63); First Place winner of the Harvard Billings Prize (1957); South Carolinian of the Year (1972); and the Napoleon Hill Foundation Award for Outstanding Leadership in Education (1987). Additionally, Payton was the first recipient of the Benjamin E. Mays Award at South Carolina State University. His honorary degrees include Doctor of Humane Letters, Benedict College and Lehigh University; Doctor of Humanities, Morgan State University; Doctor of Laws, Eastern Michigan University, Morris Brown College and South Carolina State University; and Doctor of Literature, University of Maryland.

He is a member of many professional and social organizations, including the American Council on Education, the American Higher Education Association, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and Sigma Pi Phi Boulé. His academic honors include membership in Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society.

Payton serves or has served as director on numerous boards including AmSouth Bancorporation, AmSouth Bank, Ruby Tuesday, Inc., Liberty Corp., Praxair Corp., the ITT Corp., SONAT, Inc. and Morrison Management Specialists, Inc.; Additionally, he has served on the boards of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, the American Society for Engineering Education Study National Advisory Council, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival Royal Council and the Board of Governors of the U.S. Air Force Civil Air Patrol. Payton has also served as a member of the Visiting Committee for the Board of Overseers at Harvard University and MIT, the Board of Visitors at Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, and as a director of the Association of Governing Boards.

Payton is in strong demand to give speeches and lectures across the country. He was selected to give the first George Washington Carver Lecture at the Annual Meeting of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges in San Francisco in 1999.

Payton married the former Thelma Plane of Evanston, Illinois, a B.S. degree graduate of Tennessee State University and MSW degree graduate of the Columbia University School of Social Work. They have two children: Mark Steven, a B.A. degree graduate of Yale University, who also has the M.B.A. degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Business; and Deborah Elizabeth, a B.A. degree graduate of Spelman College. They are also the proud grandparents of Danielle Marie, Maya Elizabeth, William Isaac and Nicholas Warren Payton.