Revered first female president of historic Austin university to retire in 2022
“Huston-Tillotson University has been blessed to have Dr. Burnette’s leadership for the past seven years,” says Dr. Carol McDonald, chair of the university’s board of trustees. “Her vision and perseverance have made HT a stronger, more vibrant, and more visible institution in Austin and beyond.”
Burnette has been president of Huston-Tillotson since 2015. She is the first female president of the combined institutions of Huston and Tillotson colleges.
The university said during Burnette’s time as president, its endowment has increased more than 55 percent. This year, Burnette led Huston-Tillotson through its Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges reaccreditation visit, and the reaffirmation team fully recommended the SACSCOC’s board of trustees continue the university’s accreditation.
According to Huston-Tillotson, under Burnette’s leadership, the university initiated a series of new degree programs and innovations, including opening the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, starting a Master of Business Administration program designed for working individuals, expanding the Center for Adult and Continuing Education, and creating the Center for Academic Innovation and Transformation.
Burnette’s tenure also included the university’s collaboration with Tesla on a manufacturing engineering curriculum and a career progression internship for undergraduate students. Burnette also solidified and expanded the university’s partnership with Apple.
According to the university, Burnette also completed numerous projects on its deferred maintenance list, including the construction of the Sandra Joy Anderson Health and Wellness Center — the first new building on campus since 1974 — and the remodeling of King-Seabrook Chapel.
In addition to her work at Huston-Tillotson, Burnette has engaged in the Austin community. She has served as the co-chair for the Mayor’s Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities, chair of the Leadership Austin board, chair of the Central Texas Collective for Racial Equity, and treasurer of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, as well as numerous other local and national boards.
According to the university, Burnette credits the success of her presidency at Huston-Tillotson as the actual embodiment of the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
“We know Austin and the HT community love Dr. Burnette. She cannot be replaced,” McDonald says. “In the coming weeks, we will take steps to begin a national search to find a president who can succeed her and build on all Huston-Tillotson University has become.”
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