Close this search box.
The Board of Trustees for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning officially appointed interim president Dr. Tracy Cook president of Alcorn State University during their March 21, 2024, board meeting. Photo courtesy Alcorn State University

Dr. Tracy Cook Named as Alcorn State University’s 21st President

Dr. Tracy Cook will serve as Alcorn State University’s next president, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees decided during its latest board meeting, citing support from the campus community. Cook has served as the university’s interim president since July 2023.

“This decision was made in the long-term best interests of Alcorn State University and its students, faculty, staff, and alumni,”  IHL Board of Trustees President Dr. Alfred McNair said in a March 21, 2024, press release. “There was an obvious desire and call from the Alcorn family for Dr. Cook to be named to this role, and we are putting our full faith and confidence behind this decision. He is the right person to lead Alcorn State University.”

Cook, an ASU graduate, earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics in 1994, a master’s degree in agronomy in 1996, and his degree in educational administration and supervision in 1998. He went on to earn a doctorate and specialist degree in educational leadership from Hattiesburg’s William Carey University. A star football player for the Braves, Cook was inducted into the Alcorn Sports Hall of Fame in 2015 and honored with the 2023 Southwestern Athletic Conference Alumni Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

He said that he appreciates the opportunity to lead his alma mater as its fully appointed president.

“I am honored to have the trust and support of the Board of Trustees, and excited to officially lead a university that has meant so much to me personally and professionally,” Cook said in an IHL press release. “We have a bright future ahead of us, and I am committed to leading us all toward new levels of success.”

Cook has more than 25 years of educational experience, including work as a teacher, athletic director, principal, and superintendent in the Jefferson County and Claiborne County school districts. He became ASU’s chief of staff in 2015 before becoming the university’s vice president for student affairs and enrollment management.

“At this juncture in Alcorn’s history, Dr. Cook is the right choice to lead the university to greater prominence,” Commissioner of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Dr. Al Rankin, Jr. said in the statement. “I understand and appreciate the work that lies ahead for him. Alcorn State University is fortunate to have him at the helm.”

Rankin, also an alumnus, served as Alcorn’s 19th president.

IHL appointed Cook to serve as ASU’s interim president on July 8, 2023. Last May, IHL announced that Felecia Nave would no longer serve as the university’s president; she became the first Black woman to hold the position in 2019. She was also an Alcorn alumna.

IHL meeting minutes dated April 20, 2023, show that the board unanimously terminated Nave’s employment during their executive session. She had faced criticism over several issues including declining enrollment and high numbers of employee resignations. Ontario Wooden served as interim president for two months before Cook took over.

In September, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack put ASU in the limelight when they sent a letter to Gov. Tate Reeves stating that the Legislature had underfunded the land-grant university by $257,807,216 in the last three decades. The letter urged the state to increase the university’s funding.

Alcorn State is one of three public historically Black universities in Mississippi, and it has a student body of nearly 3,000 students. Situated seven miles west of Lorman, Miss., ASU is the oldest public historically Black land-grant institution in the United States and the second-oldest state-supported institution of higher learning in Mississippi.

Cook will assume the post as ASU’s new president on April 1, 2024.

Can you support the Mississippi Free Press?

The Mississippi Free Press is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) focused on telling stories that center all Mississippians.

With your gift, we can do even more important stories like this one.