Margaret Spellings, University of North Carolina system’s president, described Saunders-White as “a great leader, valued colleague and friend.”
She added, via ABC 11:
“Deb loved NCCU with all her being and treated each of its students as her very own. She called them her light and her inspiration, as she waged her battle with cancer.”
George R. Hamilton, chairman of the NCCU Board of Trustees, said Saunders-White was a “transformational” leader. Under her tenure, the university increased its retention and graduation rates.
NCCU noted that the university was recognized as the 2016 HBCU of the Year by HBCU Digest, and U.S. News named NCCU as one of the top three HBCUs. NCCU, founded in 1909, is the nation’s first public liberal arts institution for African-Americans.
Saunders-White, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs, began her tenure at NCCU in 2013. Spellings noted that she was a first generation college graduate in her family and understood the challenges her students face.
She revealed her battle with kidney cancer last year, and the school announced in August that she was taking a medial leave of absence.
The beloved chancellor is survived by two children, Cecil and Elizabeth Paige, as well as her mother, Irene Saunders.