Thomas Hudson

Interim Jackson State University president Thomas Hudson has been named president, the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees announced Thursday.

“As a Jackson State University alumnus, I am extremely pleased that we have identified one of our own to serve as president,” board member Steven Cunningham said. “We have witnessed the great strides he has made over the past nine months and have full confidence that he will continue to demonstrate the great love he has for this university by providing outstanding leadership for the students, faculty, staff and alumni.”

Before serving as interim president, Cunningham worked as special assistant to the president and chief diversity officer at JSU, as well as serving on the executive cabinet and provided guidance to senior leadership, according to an IHL press release.

I come to you humbly, I am here to make a difference. I am a lifelong Jackson resident, I’m an alumnus. I’ve been around the university as long as I’ve been on this earth,” Cunningham said during the press conference where his appointment was announced.  

His appointment marks a hopeful end to a tumultuous period of leadership upheaval at JSU.

In 2017, the IHL board selected then Mississippi Valley State University president William Bynum as president of JSU, despite public outcries from students, faculty and alumni.

In February 2020, Bynum was arrested and “charged with procuring the services of a prostitute, false statement of identity and possession of marijuana,” according to a Clarion-Ledger report.

“Every time (a university) stops and starts over again (with presidential leadership), it really hurts the university. It’s a detriment to our stability, it’s a detriment to our long-term health and our long-term growth. We do need stability at Jackson State University,” Hudson said.

Hudson took over as interim president after Bynum’s departure, just in time for the outbreak of the pandemic.

During the press conference announcing his appointment, Hudson said he hoped that his status as a life-long Jackson resident and JSU alumnus would ease the JSU community’s fatigue with lack of stability at the university.

“For me, this is personal,” Hudson said. “For me, it’s about family. It’s about history, it’s about legacy. It’s something I’m already very much a part of.”


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Kelsey Davis Betz is from Mobile, Ala., and currently lives in Cleveland, where she works as one of our Mississippi Delta-based reporters covering education and intersecting issues. Kelsey has a dual degree in journalism and Spanish from Auburn University and worked as an editorial intern at Texas Monthly and a courts reporter at the Montgomery Advertiser. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report and is a co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.