The Henry G. Bennett Distinguished Service Award


Dr. Henry R. Ponder
Chief Executive Officer and President of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education

Dr. Henry Ponder currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer and President of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education in Washington, D.C., following his twelve-year tenure as the President of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. His effective leadership and service, along with his motivation and vision for the future, are reflective of his life-long commitment to important social and humanitarian issues facing society - not only for today, but for the future.

Characterized as a humble, soft-spoken man, he is also known as one of the most tenacious and determined individuals to champion educational and equal opportunities. His contributions span the academic community and across the nation as a social and civic leader.

Dr. Ponder, a native Oklahoman, served two years in the U.S. Army artillery with service in Korea and Japan. He is an alumnus of Langston University, as well as Oklahoma State University, and The Ohio State University. He has received numerous honorary degrees in recognition of his significant contributions to society. He served through the ranks in higher education, becoming President of Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina in 1973, and President of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee in 1984. While President of Fisk University, Dr. Ponder was selected as one of the "One Hundred Most Effective College Presidents in the United States." Through his clear spoken leadership and personal diligence, he guided Fisk University from the brink of financial failure to ensure that this premier university would continue to be academically sound for future generations.

As one who gives generously of his time and talents to positively affect the lives of others, he is active in numerous professional and civic activities. He is a 32nd Degree Mason and served as a member of the Board of several organizations, such as the American Council on Education, the Nashville Chapter of the United Nations Association, the United Way of Middle Tennessee, the Nashville Institute for the Arts, the Tennessee Repertory Theatre, and the Bishop Desmond Tutu Southern African Refugee Scholarship Fund. He has previously been recognized with countless outstanding awards and honors, including the OSU Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumnus Award and the OSU Agricultural Economics Alumni Award.

He and his wife, Eunice, are the parents of two daughters, Cheryl and Anna. Through his many achievements and dedication to educational, social, and humanitarian concerns, Dr. Henry Ponder has brought great honor and distinction to himself, his family, and Oklahoma State University.

Year of Award: 1997