Michael Lucius Lomax
Doctor of Humane Letters
Michael L. Lomax, who has had a distinguished career in both higher education and politics, is president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the nation’s largest private provider of scholarships and other educational support to African-American students.
Under his 14-year leadership, UNCF, which is known by the motto “a mind is a terrible thing to waste,” has raised more than $2.5 billion and helped more than 92,000 students earn college degrees and launch careers.
Dr. Lomax oversees the organization’s 400 scholarship programs, which award 10,000 scholarships a year worth more than $100 million.
He also launched the UNCF Institute for Capacity Building, which helps UNCF’s 37-member historically black college and universities become stronger, more effective and more self-sustaining.
Under Dr. Lomax’s leadership, UNCF has fought for college readiness and education reform through partnerships with reform-focused leaders and organizations. He serves on the boards of Teach For America and the KIPP Foundation.
Before joining UNCF in 2004, Dr. Lomax served for seven years as president of Dillard University in New Orleans, where he implemented several initiatives to strengthen the school.
During his tenure at Dillard, student enrollment at the private, historically black university increased by 49 percent, private funding by 300 percent and alumni giving more than 2,000 percent.
In addition, Dr. Lomax led an aggressive $60 million campus renovation program to improve the living and learning environment for Dillard students.
A native of Los Angeles, Dr. Lomax enrolled at Morehouse College, a UNCF-member institution, when he was only sixteen. He graduated magna cum laude in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in English and minors in Spanish and history. He and three classmates were the first students inducted into Phi Beta Kappa at Morehouse.
He went on to earn a master’s degree in English literature from Columbia University in 1969 and a doctor of philosophy in American and Afro-American literature from Emory University in 1984.
Dr. Lomax began his career as an English professor at Morehouse while holding several positions in the 1970s as an Atlanta public servant.
As director of research and special assistant to the mayor of Atlanta, he helped establish the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural and International Affairs, serving as its first director.
He also founded the Fulton County Arts Council and served as commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs in Atlanta.
In 1978, Dr. Lomax ran for public office and was elected to the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. Two years later, he was elected chairman of the board, becoming the first African-American to lead a major county government in Georgia.
He served as board chairman for 12 years, overseeing a $500 million annual operating budget and some 5,000 county employees.
As a commissioner, he helped bring the 1988 Democratic National Convention and the 1996 Olympic Games to Atlanta. He also spearheaded a number of major construction projects, including building Georgia 400, expanding and renovating Grady Hospital, and constructing the new Fulton County government center.
While in Atlanta, Dr. Lomax also taught at Spelman College, another UNCF-member institution, as well as at Emory University, the University of Georgia and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
A staunch supporter of the arts, Dr. Lomax in 1988 founded the National Black Arts Festival, recognized as the oldest multidisciplinary arts organization in the United States focused exclusively on showcasing the work of artists of African descent.
Dr. Lomax serves on the boards of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Studio Museum of Harlem.
He served on the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities under President George W. Bush. He also served on the National Museum of African American History and Culture Plan for Action Presidential Commission.
A former trustee of Emory University, he received the university’s highest alumni honor, the Emory Medal, in 2004.
Among his other awards are the Laurel Crowned Circle Award from Omicron Delta Kappa, Morehouse’s Bennie Achievement Award, and 14 honorary degrees.
Dr. Lomax and his wife, Cheryl Ferguson Lomax, live in Atlanta. He has three daughters, Deignan, Michele and Hallie, and five grandchildren.