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Biography of Chancellor Antonio D. Tillis

Antonio D. Tillis, a noted scholar and higher education leader, became chancellor of Rutgers University–Camden on July 1, 2021.

Before joining Rutgers University–Camden, Antonio D. Tillis served as interim president of the University of Houston–Downtown, a comprehensive urban institution offering more than 50 degree-granting programs and serving more than 15,000 students. In this capacity, he worked collaboratively to promote student and faculty development, engage the community, and advance the strategic vision for the second-largest campus in the University of Houston system.

Also at the University of Houston, he served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, the largest of the 15 academic and professional colleges at the university. Under his leadership, the reputation and resources of that school grew significantly. He successfully led a $60 million fundraising campaign while developing new opportunities for student learning experiences and creating partnerships with community organizations in the city and throughout the region. He increased student scholarships, recruited and retained nationally known faculty, created an infrastructure to nurture the research profile of the school, and greatly expanded outreach to the city by launching such programs as the Dean’s Mayoral Summer Internship and a mobile unit to deliver social and health-related services in the community.  The University of Houston in 2017 named Tillis as the M.D. Anderson Professor in Hispanic Studies.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner declared March 7, 2017, as “Dr. Antonio D. Tillis Day.” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland proclaimed a similar honor in that city on June 19, 2021.

Tillis, who is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, is a noted scholar in the field of Afro-Hispanic studies. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to Brazil in 2009, and he has presented his scholarship at lectures and conferences across the United States and around the world. He is the coeditor of several books, including The Trayvon Martin in ‘US’: An American Tragedy (Peter Lang, 2015), The Afro-Hispanic Reader and Anthology (Randal Publishing, 2018), and Critical Perspectives on Afro-Latin American Literature (Routledge, 2012). He has served as editor of the journal Publication of the Afro-Latin/American Research Association, as coeditor of the Afro-Hispanic Review, and as associate editor of the International Journal of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies.

Prior to the University of Houston, Tillis served as dean of the School of Languages, Culture, and World Affairs at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, where he instituted numerous initiatives, including the Wells Fargo International Scholarship for Study Abroad for low-income, in-state students; the Dean’s Collaborative Interdisciplinary Summer Research Award for International Engagement; and the Summer International Internships for students in India, Brazil, and Ghana. Previously, Tillis chaired the Department of African and African American Studies at Dartmouth College and served as the inaugural director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program at Purdue University, where he received the 2007 Faculty Scholar Award.

In 2018, Tillis was selected as one of 30 national participants for the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference hosted by the U.S. Secretary of Defense. He also has served on numerous boards, including Houston Habitat for Humanity, the Houston Arts Alliance, the International African American Museum in Charleston, and the Hemispheric Institute for Performance Studies. He is a founding board member of the International Institute of Critical Pedagogy and Transformative Leadership.

A first-generation college student, Tillis holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Vanderbilt University and a master’s degree in Spanish literature from Howard University. He earned his Ph.D. in Latin American literature (with an Afro-Hispanic emphasis) from the University of Missouri at Columbia.

He enjoys performing as a lyric baritone and collecting contemporary art from West Africa, Cuba, Brazil, and the United States.