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John W. Garland

Mr. John W. Garland’s distinguished career provides him with experience as a college president, attorney, university counsel, civil rights advocate, and skilled evaluator of executive talent.

Before his work in law and higher education began, Mr. Garland developed leadership skills in extreme circumstances. The Harlem, NY, native enlisted in the Marines at 17, and he saw military action during the Cuban Missile Crisis and in Panama. Then, as a 22-year-old squad leader in South Vietnam, Mr. Garland was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat. Following his recovery, Mr. Garland stepped onto Central State University’s campus as a 24-year-old freshman, and he finished his bachelor’s degree in just three years. He would eventually return to lead the public HBCU as its president, but not before earning his Juris Doctorate from The Ohio State University and making his mark as a trial lawyer and civil rights attorney in Washington, DC, and rural Northeastern North Carolina, where he was the founding director of the Legal Services of the Coastal Plains.

Mr. Garland began his career in higher education as the General Counsel for the University of the District of Columbia. He subsequently moved to the University of Virginia as the Associate General Counsel, eventually becoming Executive Assistant to the President and Vice Provost for Intellectual Property. In 1997, the Board of Trustees elected him to serve as the 7th President of his alma mater, Central State University. They believed that CSU was the ideal place to put his experience and leadership to the test.

As president of Central State University from 1997 to 2012, Mr. Garland dramatically improved the school’s standing. Under his leadership, enrollment increased 160 percent, eight buildings were constructed, and Mr. Garland helped successfully secure 1890 Land-Grant Institution status, transforming the university’s research portfolio, dramatically increasing funding, and supporting new generations of students.

After retiring from CSU, Mr. Garland served as the Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s first President-in-Residence. Additionally, he is a former member of the American Council on Education’s Board of Directors and chair of its Commission on Minorities in Higher Education. He previously served on the Board of Visitors of the Marine Corps University and is a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the NAACP.

In June 2022, the Central State Board of Trustees recognized his distinguished and transformative service by naming the John W. Garland College of Engineering, Science, Technology, and Agriculture in his honor.

Mr. Garland is currently a senior consultant with Academic Search, where his determination and problem-solving skills make him an excellent partner in leadership searches, along with his remarkable knowledge of university governance, supportive approach, and willingness to collaborate. He also maintains a boutique law practice.