Nominating Organization: Houston East End Chamber
Title: Interim President University of Houston Downtown
Dr. Antonio D. Tillis is currently serving as Interim President of the University of Houston-Downtown. Selected on July 2, 2020, to serve as the leader of the second largest university in the city of Houston, Dr. Tillis oversees the institution’s historic downtown campus, as well as UHD Northwest and off-site centers at Lone Star College campuses in CyFair and Kingwood.
In his role as Interim President, Dr. Tillis has embarked upon several faculty, staff, and student initiatives to support and sustain the dynamic surge in growth experienced by the university. In his short four months at UHD, Tillis has appointed a Presidential Taskforce on Diversity, initiated a Faculty Success Program to support research development, and established and implemented faculty cluster hiring and strategic hiring programs that will connect diverse faculty to the growing academic programs at UHD. Experiences as a first-generation student of color informs his leadership and was the foundation for forging a relationship with the City of Houston and the Houston Arts Alliance to create degree targeted internship experiences for UHD students and supplying the Call Me Mister program with student success funds to support the inaugural cohort.
Prior to his appointment at UHD, Dr. Tillis served as Dean for the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences (CLASS) and MD Anderson Professor in Hispanic Studies at the University of Houston. As CLASS Dean, his leadership extended across 13 academic departments, 10 academic areas and programs, 13 academic centers, six clinical service units, and more than 688 faculty members. Preceding his Deanship at UH, Tillis served as Dean of the School of Languages, Culture & World Affairs at the College of Charleston; Chair of African & African American Studies at Dartmouth College, and the inaugural Chair of Latin American & Latino Studies at Purdue University.
Dr. Tillis is an internationally acclaimed scholar and author with specializations in Latin American, Afro-Latin American and African Diaspora literature. He is the author of the books The Afro-Hispanic Reader and Anthology, Manuel Zapata Olivella and the “Darkening” of Latin American Literature, Caribbean-African Upon Awakening: Poetry by Blas Jiménez, (Re)Considering Blackness in Contemporary Afro-Brazilian (Con)Texts: A Cultural Studies Reader, Critical Perspectives on Afro-Latin American Literature, and Manuel Zapata Olivella e o escurecimento da literatura latino-americana. Dr. Tillis’ work has been featured in top journals, including Callaloo, Hispanic Journal, Mosaic, CLA Journal, and Transit Circle.
Dr. Tillis is the recipient of many prestigious honors and has served in various leadership roles. He was named one of the Top 50 African American Professionals and Entrepreneurs in Houston by d-mars Business Journal, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner declared March 7, 2017 “Dr. Antonio D. Tillis Day.” Dr. Tillis was named the 2012 Lorna Hill Professor of the Year at Dartmouth College, served as president of the College Language Association from 2008 to 2010, and received the 2007 University Faculty Scholar award at Purdue University. Dr. Tillis was a Fulbright Scholar to Brazil and a Visiting scholar at State University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil.
A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. Tillis is a sought-after lecturer who has served as a visiting scholar at the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica. He has developed relationships with numerous universities in Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, France, Peru, Trinidad, Jamaica, Sweden, France, England, Costa Rica, Peru, Ghana, China and Spain.
Dr. Tillis received his Ph.D. in Latin American literature with an Afro-Hispanic emphasis from the University of Missouri. He also holds an M.A. in Spanish literature from Howard University and a B.S. in Spanish from Vanderbilt University.