Longtime president of Harris-Stowe, Dr. Henry Givens Jr., dead at 90


ST. LOUIS – Dr. Henry Givens Jr., a St. Louis native who led Harris-Stowe State University for more than three decades, died Tuesday morning at his home. He was 90. A cause of death was not disclosed.

A statement from the university heralds Givens as “a pioneer for education and a public servant.”

Givens grew up in The Ville neighborhood in north St. Louis City, according to a report from St. Louis Public Radio. He went to school in the St. Louis Public School System and earned his degree from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. He earned his master’s at the University of Illinois and his Ph.D. at Saint Louis University before going to Harvard University for postdoctoral studies in higher education administration.

Givens worked as a teacher in the Webster Groves School District and became principal of the first magnet school prototype in the country. Before leaving the district, he ascended to the role of assistant to the superintendent.

He was named Missouri’s first African American assistant commissioner of education in 1973.

In 1979, Givens left his state job to become president of what was then known as Harris-Stowe State College. Under his 32-year stewardship, Harris-Stowe tripled its student population and grew from one building offering only one degree to a multi-building campus with 14 available degree programs. Harris-Stowe became a university in 2005 and is listed among the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) by the U.S. Department of Education.

Givens received honorary doctorates from Saint Louis University, Lincoln University, and Washington University-St. Louis, and more than 125 national, state, and local awards recognitions over the course of his career.

Funeral arrangements are still pending for Dr. Givens. He is survived by his wife, Belma, their two children, and three grandchildren.

Former Missouri Congressman Lacy Clay, a friend of Givens, released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

I want to express my deepest condolences to the family of Dr. Henry Givens, my dear friend, and a remarkable St. Louisan who saved two historically black colleges, transformed the landscape of midtown St. Louis, and opened up the doors of higher education to thousands of African American students who would have never attended college without him. He made an indelible mark at Harris-Stowe State University and Lincoln University, and his legacy will endure for generations to come. America has lost a champion for education, and I have lost a dear friend.
Rest in power Doc.

Fmr. Congressman William “Lacy” Clay

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