Janeen Blige-Ernandez, a spokeswoman for the fund, said the Education Leadership Award is the highest individual award presented annually to presidents or educational leaders of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The award is given to those who have demonstrated outstanding business, academic and visionary leadership through unwavering action and highly effective management of an institution, she said.
“President Watson was selected because he serves as a role model for the next generation of leaders and has been an faithful supporter of TMCF,” she said. “In addition, he has led a life dedicated to education and building a platform that cultivates future generations of leaders.”
The TMCF is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and named after the first black U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
Watson was given the national award at the 25th Annual Awards Gala in New York last month.
Watson, who has served as CSU president since 2009, said he is grateful for the award.
“I am humbled and honored to receive such an award from this prestigious organization,” said Watson. “As the president I am constantly working to engage our student community, as well as the communities our students come from, to transform and create better educational opportunities for them.”
CSU is the only four-year, public university on the South Side and the majority of its nearly 7,000 students are black, according to school data. The university is also searching for land on the West Side to build a satellite campus by 2015 thanks to a $4 million grant it received from the state, said U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Chicago).
Prior to his appointment at CSU, 9500 S. King Drive, Watson served as chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago and had also served as president of Kennedy-King College in Englewood.
Watson has attracted both accolades and criticism in his career.
Watson was at the helm during a bitter faculty strike at City Colleges, but later was praised by union leaders. He also received more than $500,000 from City Colleges when he left in 2009, after cashing in 500 unused sick days, plus free health insurance for life, according to the Better Government Association (BGA), which reported that in addition to his $250,000 salary he collects a $140,000 annual pension from his days at City Colleges.
CSU has made some improvements under his leadership, but six-year graduation rates remain at 21 percent.
Still, TMCF President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny Taylor Jr. insisted that Watson is worthy of the award.
“Wayne D. Watson has led a life dedicated to education and building a platform that cultivates future generations of leaders, and it is for this reason that we are privileged to be honoring him,” Taylor said.