Photo by Southland College Prep High School/John Smierciak
Tougaloo College named Blondean Davis, chief executive officer of Southland College Prep Charter High School in Chicago, to its board of trustees in June. Davis received an honorary doctorate degree in humane letters from Tougaloo in 2013 for her work in raising $8 million for historically black colleges and universities as chairperson of the Chicago United Negro College Fund.
The Tougaloo board surprised her with the announcement of her position during a luncheon in June 30.
"Tougaloo has a prominent position amongst HBCUs, and this honor feels like a significant acknowledgement of the work I've done in the field of education," she said. "My primary charity work for the last 30 years has been to raise money to ensure that HBCUs are financially viable because of the significance for our people. That is something that has been important to me all my professional life."
Davis is a lifelong Chicago resident and graduated from the now-closed Parker High School before going to Loyola University Chicago. She received a bachelor's degree in education in 1970, a master's degree in educational administration in 1979 and a doctorate in educational leadership in 1983, all from Loyola.
"From the time I was 3 years old, I never wanted to be anything but a teacher," Davis said. "My mother (the late Beaulah Harmon), a prolific reader, helped drive me toward becoming an educator. My earliest memory is of sitting with her while she was reading, playing with my dolls and saying to her that I was a teacher. My mother said to me, 'If you want to be a teacher, make sure you're a good one, and I'll do everything I can.' Since then, teaching has been something that permeates my being."
Davis became a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools system and served as a counselor, assistant principal, principal and district superintendent over the next 30 years. She also began serving with UNCF while still working as a teacher in 1979 and became chairperson for that organization in 1988.
She served as chief of schools and regions for CPS from 1995 to 2001 before becoming an associate professor of educational administration at Saint Xavier University. In 2002, she accepted a position as superintendent of Matteson School District 162, a role that she still holds.
In 2010, Davis launched Southland College Prep Charter High School, which is the first public charter high school the Illinois State Board of Education approved in the Chicago suburbs. Southland serves mostly minority students in nine suburban communities in Richton Park, Ill., a far south suburb of Chicago.
The school has graduated four classes since it opened, and Southland's website states that all of its graduates have been accepted into four-year colleges and universities, including seven of the eight Ivy League institutions in the United States.
"Our vision and mission at Southland is to prepare children to go on to college, stay there and be competitive," Davis said. "I also don't believe the middle class can carry the financial load (of college tuition today), so we work to find as many scholarships for students as possible so that student loans aren't necessary. I've worked hard to raise as much money as I have for children so that they can get an education without the burden of debt."
Davis will travel to Jackson for her first meeting as a member of the Tougaloo board of trustees on Oct. 16. She said her goal is to use her wide range of experiences in education to improve the college's grant-writing process at both the state and federal levels.
"I want to make it my mission to publicize the great things Tougaloo does in Mississippi and beyond," she said. "I plan to immerse myself in the administration there and learn about it to help Tougaloo aggressively go after the resources it needs to help the children who attend the school."