Watson, who has served as 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.”
And Janeen Blige-Ernandez, a spokeswoman for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), which honored Watson with the award, said it is the highest individual award presented annually to an extraordinary president or educational leader.
“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.
CSU is the only four-year, public university on the South Side and the majority of its students are black, according to school data.
Since his installment as the 21st president of CSU, Watson has worked tirelessly to provide leadership for the implementation of a reform agenda focused on streamlining operations, establishing accountability and transparency, and redefining the institution as a whole to lay the foundation for an institutional renaissance, explained Johnny Taylor Jr., president and chief executive officer for the TMCF.
Additionally, Taylor said Watson had joined CSU after a distinguished 30-year tenure with the City Colleges of Chicago, one of the largest community college systems in the country. And Watson’s dedication to excellence in education includes a strong commitment to community service.
“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,” added Taylor.
CSU alumni credit Watson with helping them reach their goals.
“This is a man who cares deeply about education. He made it possible for working students with kids to be able to take classes from home,” recalled Diamond Green, 29. “I was able to get my bachelor’s in Business Administration and did it by taking online courses and classes on the weekends, when it was easier for me to get a babysitter. Had Chicago State not had these types of offerings I probably would have dropped out. Now I have a ‘good paying job and now I can provide for my baby and me without welfare.”
Gregory Chester, 23, earned a bachelor’s in English from CSU and now works as a proofreader for a Chicago-based law firm.
“It feels good to know that the education I got at Chicago State paid off for me. I make enough money to live comfortably and pay back my student loans,” Chester said. “And to think at one point I was going to take a break from school and work full-time but Dr. Watson encouraged me to stay in school and seek work on campus. I am glad I listened to him.”
For over 20 years the TMCF have been providing scholarships to needy students and recognizing educational leaders, such as Watson, along the way, added Blige-Ernandez.
Established in 1987, TMCF supports and represents nearly 300,000 students attending its 47 member-schools that include Historically Black Colleges and Universities, medical schools and law schools. TMCF helps students with a clear intention and the motivation to succeed and acquire a high-quality college education at an affordable cost.
TMCF also efficiently connects high performing, world-ready students with top tier employment opportunities—access that students or employers might not have on their own. Through its scholarships and programs, TMCF plays a key role in preparing the leaders of tomorrow. TMCF is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, charitable organization.