Dr. Morakinyo A.O. Kuti: Charting a bold new course as President of Central State University

By Alissa Paolella, Communications Manager
Posted Jul 01 2024
10th central state university president dr. morakinyo kuti

Dr. Morakinyo A.O. Kuti's journey to the presidency of Central State University has been as diverse and enriching as the Institution he now leads. From his early days growing up in Nigeria to becoming an esteemed alum of Central State in 1985, Kuti's path has uniquely prepared him for the role of the University's 10th president. 

Born out of a profound understanding of the transformative power of education, Kuti's journey began when he left home at age 10 to attend boarding school in Nigeria. This experience shaped his life, instilling in him a deep appreciation for the educational environment and its impact on students.  

“Leaving home started my educational journey as a student and let me understand the power of education,” Kuti said. 

“From that day forward, I’ve always realized the importance of the physical, emotional, and educational environment necessary for students to succeed.”  

His arrival at Central State University seven years later, in 1982, marked the beginning of a long connection to the Institution. Under the mentorship of former Presidents, Kuti witnessed firsthand the evolution of Central State — from enrollment growth to campus revitalization. Those who impacted Kuti’s career included former Presidents Dr. Lionel H. Newsom (1972-1985), Arthur E. Thomas (1985-1995), John W. Garland, Esq. (1997-2012), and Cynthia Jackson-Hammond (2012-2020), Dr. Jack Thomas (2020-2023), and Dr. Alex B. Johnson (2023-2024). 

“Dr. Lionel Newsom was the President of the University when I first arrived — a remarkable man, a gentleman, and we all looked up to him as the President of the University. He was always someone you gravitated toward as a leader,” Kuti said. “Though Dr. Thomas was completely different from Dr. Newsom, I came to appreciate his style of leadership in being a forceful advocate for the University.” 

He continued, “Then, I saw how John W. Garland grew the University from less than 900 students to about 2,500 students when he left. He had a remarkable run, not just in student enrollment growth, but also the physical transformation of the University campus.”  

Kuti also worked under Jackson-Hammond, who guided the University out of fiscal watch during her tenure. “I saw all these different presidencies and how they affected the University. I was able to learn from each one. In some cases, you learn what to do; in others, you learn what not to do, which is sometimes just as important.”  

Throughout his career, Kuti's commitment to education and leadership in higher education never wavered. Pursuing a Ph.D. in nonprofit management in 2017 reinforced his dedication to educational leadership, informed by theories of social equity — how to treat people equitably in society — and policy feedback — how to implement public policy to improve society. His tenure as a faculty member and a senior staff member further solidified his understanding of Central State's mission and the pivotal role of the community in shaping its future. 

Diversity, inclusion, and community engagement 

Diversity and inclusion are foundational to Central State's mission. Kuti's personal experiences and scholarly insights into social equity inform his approach to supporting underrepresented students. "For society to prosper, everyone must have equal access to educational opportunities," Kuti asserts. His commitment to removing barriers and creating an inclusive environment underscores Central State's role in empowering all students to succeed. 

Looking ahead, Kuti emphasized the importance of strategic planning in guiding Central State's future. "Our strategic plan will be the roadmap for the next five years," he explained.  

In collaboration with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and stakeholders, Kuti aims to develop a plan that reflects shared goals and aspirations over the next nine to 12 months. This inclusive approach ensures that Central State remains responsive to the needs of its community and focused on achieving measurable outcomes. 

dr. morakinyo kuti, who uses a power chair, talks with a student wearing an hbcu proud hoodie and a green beanie at a table in the marauder cafe
Dr. Morakinyo Kuti (right) connects with a student in the Marauder Café. 

As Central State expands its footprint in Ohio and beyond, Kuti highlights the University's role as an 1890 Land-Grant Institution committed to academic excellence, research, and community engagement. 

"Central State has Extension agents in 42 of 88 Ohio counties, addressing critical issues from agriculture to economic development," he said. This statewide presence exemplifies the University’s commitment to serving diverse communities and driving positive change. 

“As a Land-Grant University, we’re compelled to improve the lives of individuals in our communities by using the knowledge we’ve created through research,” Kuti added. “As a University among Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), we produce more than our fair share of African American students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 

"As a University, we’re small, but we have a major impact across Ohio.”  

One focus for the future is to enhance the Central State University-Dayton location, which houses the Workforce Training and Business Development Center. At the intersection of Interstates 75 and 35, the location can attract residents, many of whom are of lower socioeconomic status compared to other areas of Dayton.  

“We’re going to use that location to have a bigger impact on underrepresented communities in Dayton through education, workforce training, business development, and even nutrition,” Kuti said.  

Central State intends to become a regional presence in the Miami Valley and beyond by collaborating with organizations such as the Dayton Development Coalition, the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, the Dayton Chamber of Commerce, and the Southwest Ohio Strategic Council of Education. 

Looking ahead 

In his initial days as President, Kuti will set a course for transformative leadership at Central State University. His dedication to enhancing educational opportunities, fostering innovation through research, and promoting diversity and inclusion reflects a vision grounded in community, excellence, and collaboration. As Central State embarks on this new chapter under Kuti's leadership, the University is poised to achieve new heights of academic distinction and societal impact. 

Kuti's message to the Central State community — students, faculty, staff, alumni, and supporters — is clear and compelling: 

"Together, we will build upon our strengths, address challenges, and seize opportunities to ensure a brighter future for Central State University." 

As the journey unfolds, Kuti stands at the helm of Central State University, steering it toward a future rich with promise, innovation, and inclusive excellence.