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Colleges and Universities Kent County News

DSU Board Chair Williams steps down

Katie Tabeling
Delaware State University Board Chairwoman was among the first women to lead the board of trustees, will end her two six-year terms in Jan.

Dr. Devona Williams

DOVER — Devona Williams has stepped down as chair of the Delaware State University Board of Trustees, after several years of service in various leadership roles.

Williams, who also is the president and CEO of corporate consultancy Goeins-Williams Associates, has sat on the state’s only historically Black college or university’s (HBCU) top governing board since 2012 and has served as chair since 2018. In her role, she has helped guide the strategic future of DSU.

Attorney Leroy Tice of Team Tice has succeeded Williams as of June, and Williams will step down from the board in January 2024.

Delaware State University Board of Trustee positions are six years and limited to two terms. Eight of the trustees are appointed by the governor, and designated by counties. Williams was first appointed by Gov. Jack Markell to represent Kent County, and later re-appointed by Gov. John Carney. The governor recently awarded Williams the Order of the First State, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a civilian.

She led the board of the university through the hiring of current President Tony Allen, the transition of former president Wilma Mishoe, and the acquisition of Wesley College in Dover, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s bittersweet, as it has been among the most rewarding work I have ever done,” Williams said. “It’s been important to my development, as I feel like the board has made a difference for DSU and given me a sense of purpose. But I do believe leadership needs fresh blood.”

Williams has built a career in business, starting as a mid-level executive at DuPont, and eventually taking the “silver parachute” money from a buyout to launch her own consulting firm. 

Founded in 1986, Goeins-Williams Associates works to guide companies achieve greater productivity and strategic work in the workplace. Over the years, she worked with companies like McDonald’s, YMCA of USA, Coca-Cola, MBNA, AstraZeneca, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Christiana Health Systems and more.

She also received her Doctorate in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware, and served as an assistant professor of community development and leadership at UD’s School of Urban Affairs. Williams points to her more than a decade of teaching students as inspiration to why she got involved at DSU.

“I really wanted to make a difference, and teaching is one of the most direct ways of achieving that. I will say, I did not have as strong an appreciation for the HBCUs community as I do now, even though both my grandparents went to Howard [University]. But it really does provide that sense of community that is so valuable,” she said.

Williams was first named to the DSU Board of Trustees in 2012, and served as the chair of the board’s educational policy, the chair and vice chair of the Board’s Innovation and Sustainability Committee, as well as other committees. She also served on the University Foundation Chair from 2017 through 2022.

In 2017, when then-DSU President Harry Williams left the college to lead the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, then-Board Chair Wilma Mishoe served as interim president of the college and the board elected Williams to serve as interim chair. That marked the first time in DSU history that the two top officers of the board of trustees were women.

Months later, interim was removed from both women’s titles. As the chair, Williams strove to establish a strong succession plan of leadership within the board, to head off any vacancies. Her other goal was to open the board to thinking long-term.

“The idea was to move to a more thoughtful, strategic way of operating and to have retreats to examine where we are on our goals and our mission,” she said. “We also needed to walk the talk. The board wasn’t present at graduation or convocation in the past, and it was important to be involved in campus life.”

Once her term ends in January, Williams plans on focusing on her businesses and possible new business ventures, as well as spending time with her family. She does anticipate staying connected to DSU.

“I’ve been getting messages congratulating me on my retirement, but the reality is I’m term limited,” she said with a laugh. “Legacy is so important, and I do hope this is part of mine. And I won’t be completely gone either.”

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