DOVER — Before the man with a powerful resume that screams success and bodes well for his new employer comes the kid who needed an opportunity to realize that potential.
Delaware State University’s next provost — the vice president of academic affairs leading a 212-professor faculty and 21 academic departments for more than 4,600 students — came from humble beginnings.
Dr. Tony Allen’s parents had a limited academic background, but “their interest was always college” for their son.
Pre-college enrichment programs served as the launching pads for the future executive and civic leader as he worked his way through William Penn High School in New Castle before graduating in 1988.
“I understand the importance of college access and opportunity, particularly for disadvantaged young people of little means, of which I was one,” he said.
Before earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and a doctorate in urban affairs and public policy, Dr. Allen initially struggled to meet the academic rigors of the University of Delaware. He followed by earning a master’s degree in public administration from Baruch College (City University of New York) and hasn’t stop excelling since.
“Had it not been for a lot of support services and people around me it would have been a tough transformation,” he said.
So when the 47-year-old Dr. Allen officially begins as the school’s provost on Aug. 15 — he’s already moving into his DSU office and on a tight schedule of meetings — he won’t have to look hard to see shades of himself in the student body.
Exuding no pretensions of a high-achieving private and public sector member, DSU’s new leader immediately asked to be called “Tony” after he was initially greeted as “Dr. Allen” to begin an interview last week.
Matriculation, retention, graduation and placement are crucial to strengthening the university’s alumni base and producing future leaders, he said.
“This university is here to develop the next generation of college graduates who are not only adept at critical thinking and writing substantively, but who also see it as their responsibility to serve as citizens through public service and community support,” Dr. Allen said.
Said DSU President Dr. Harry L. Williams when announcing the appointment on June 15, “(Dr. Allen’s) substantial educational background, couple with a successful career in the private sector and extensive public service credentials make him an excellent fit to be the No. 2 executive leader at DSU and to lead the institution’s academic transformation.
“Dr. Allen’s leadership will put student success first and support the continued growth in the scholarship, research and community service that distinguishes our institution.”
Arriving in Dover after leading Bank of America’s Corporate Reputation unit in Global Marketing & Corporate Affairs, Dr. Allen embraces an opportunity to continue DSU’s push into an extended world of academia.
“During his tenure, I’ve watched Dr. Williams transform this university from staying within its boundaries to getting off campus and connecting with an entire world of opportunity and partnership possibilities that’s out there,” said the married father of four who lives with his family in Wilmington.
“It’s been a remarkable plan and I’m glad to be a part of continuing to move it forward.”
The founding president of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League “ … he advocated for equity in education, minority business procurement and urban revitalization,” a DSU news release stated when announcing the hire earlier this month.
“(Dr. Allen’s) work touched thousands of small, minority-owned businesses and Delaware children.”
Dr. Allen spent several years working for Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden as a speech writer and special assistant. Mr. Biden extolled his virtues in the news release.
“I have known Tony for 20 years,” he said. “When he worked for me, he was a full-time staffer, pursuing his doctoral studies, raising a family and serving on just about every board or committee of consequence in the state.
“In the past few years, he has proven to be a tireless advocate for the overlooked, underserved or ignored, 100 percent committed to making this a better, more hospitable, opportunity-filled place to live and raise a family.
“Del State is a perfect fit for Tony. He embodies the school’s ideals of providing the highest quality education for all, regardless of what you look like, where you come from or who you love.
“The university is lucky to have him, and the state of Delaware is lucky to keep him, right here, where I am sure he will continue to serve our communities with passion and purpose.”