THE HISTORY OF NAAAHP

The National Association of African American Honors Programs (NAAAHP) began in May, 1990, when a group of Honors directors from approximately 20 Historically and Predominantly Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs and PBCUs) met at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, to discuss plans for a national organization of honors programs designed to address the specific needs of honors education for African-American students.  The following year, the NAAAHP was formally established, and a set of goals was designed to promote the continued empowerment of its constituents (students) through enhanced cognitive and affective experiences.

These goals include the following:

  • Developing, enhancing, and supporting honors programs in all HBCUs and PBCUs;
  • Stimulating, encouraging community service and leadership as one of the highest aims;
  • Advocating the funding of honors programs by federal and state agencies, as well as by private philanthropic foundations and organizations;
  • Facilitating the enrollment of African-American students into graduate and professional schools;
  • Promoting a curriculum that fosters a lifelong disciplined approach to knowledge and scholarship through inquiry and exploration; and
  • Developing an undergraduate educational environment that promotes scholarship, knowledge, and an appreciation of African-American culture as a mirror for understanding other great world cultures.

These goals further emphasized the need for empathetic responsiveness on the part of these constituents, who through inspiration from this organization were encouraged to serve as catalysts for instigating a better way of life in their communities, the nation, and the world. The inaugural meeting for the newly established organization was held at Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA in October 1991. The NAAAHP Annual National Conference is the organization’s premier activity. It takes place in the fall of each year for approximately three days.

The honors directors from each affiliated school meet periodically, at least four times each year, to plan and execute activities geared at hosting a successful conference. The Annual Conference is hosted in various cities across the United States where an affiliated school is located.  The NAAAHP Annual Conference is funded through donations and dues paid by affiliated institutions and students at affiliated schools. The conference is an opportunity for students from NAAAHP affiliated schools around the country to gather for networking, academic competitions, scholarly research presentations, community service, and educational/ professional enrichment opportunities.

Some of the featured activities that take place at the NAAAHP Annual Conference have included the following:

  • An Academic Quiz Bowl where students from each affiliated school with a participating team compete against one another to test their knowledge of a wide body of information;
  • An “Honors Got Talent” competition where students get to demonstrate various talents and compete to win prizes;
  • A Debate Competition where students from affiliated schools with a participating team compete in debate regarding intellectual, political, and social issues;
  • The awarding of the Dr. Freddye T. Davy Humanitarian and Service Award Scholarship to a deserving student from one of the affiliated school honors programs (The students must apply for consideration and meet the criteria set forth by the NAAAHP).
  • A Model African United Nations event where students from affiliated schools are engaged in a political simulation experience;
  • Professional Development Seminars and Workshops for faculty and students;
  • A Career and Graduate School Fair where high level students network with graduate schools, corporations and businesses for summer research opportunities, internships, graduate admissions and job opportunities; and
  • A celebratory Award Banquet where the Dr. Freddye T. Davy Humanitarian and Service Award Scholarship is awarded, and where faculty and students of the affiliated schools celebrate their conference competition accomplishments, as well as those achieved throughout the year.

RONALD J. SHEEHY, PH.D.

Co-Founder, NAAAHP

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Dr. Ronald J. Sheehy entered Morehouse College at the age of 16, and graduated in 1965 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology.  He earned a Master of Science Degree at Atlanta University, and a Ph.D. in molecular genetics at the University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.  After completing the Ph.D., he was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at the Public Health Research Institute in New York, where he worked with Dr. Richard Novick one of the leaders in the field of plasmid genetics.

Following his postdoctoral years, Dr. Sheehy returned to his alma mater to begin his professional career.  In succession, he was appointed Chair of the Department of Biology, promoted to full professor and awarded the David E. Packard Endowed Chair in Biology.

In 1984, Dr. Sheehy was appointed founding dean of the Benjamin Banneker Honors College at Prairie View A&M University.  The Honors College was the first of its kind on a historically black campus, and one of only a few in the country.  It was designed to raise the profile of the University, as well as to bring a talented cadre of students majoring in science and technical fields to Prairie View.

After six years as dean, Dr. Sheehy was appointed Vice President for Academic Affairs at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.  A few years later, he returned to Atlanta to accept the position of Associate Executive Director, with the Commission on Colleges, of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).  In this latter capacity, he was responsible for overseeing the accreditation of colleges and universities in the southern region of the United States.  After seven years at SACS, he was appointed Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs at Georgia Perimeter College in Atlanta, where he led the reaccreditation effort.

In the latter stages of his career he returned to his alma mater, Morehouse College, where he directed a successful SACS review and chaired the Quality Enhancement Plan, a five-year program to enhance the global competence of Morehouse students.  Also, during this period he published a memoir, “Possibilities:  A Search for Personal Liberation.”

In the last few years, he relocated to Florida as Director of International Affairs at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.  He retired from this position in December 2013.

As a retiree, Dr. Sheehy stays busy as founder and editor of a web-site devoted to disseminating “Important Current Stories on Race in America” raceinquiry.com and a subsidiary, Race Inquiry Digest.


JOCELYN JACKSON, PH.D.

Co-Founder, NAAAHP

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Dr. Jocelyn Jackson has been associated with Honors since 1973.  She received the B.A. from Boston University in English in 1960, the M.A. from Georgetown University in English and French in 1966, and the Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Emory University in 1973.

Dr. Jackson’s first teaching job after college was in the language laboratory of Claflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina.  In 1963, she moved to Atlanta where she was employed at Clark College as an instructor in English language and literature.

In 1973, the then-president of Clark College, Vivian Wilson Henderson charged Dr. Jackson with researching and founding the Clark College Honors Program.  Based on models and assistance offered by several existing programs (including Alcorn State, Tennessee State, and Howard University), Dr. Jackson began the University’s Honors Program in the fall of 1974.  For 13 years, Clark’s Honors Program flourished and was responsible for singular honors to both students and faculty alike.  Under her mentorship, 3 of her students have been chosen as participants’ in the NCHC Semesters Program, several faculty and students have successfully held office in the NCHC and SRHC, and Dr. Jackson herself, was chosen by vote for a three-year presidential term of the NCHC.  When Dr. Jackson joined the faculty at Morehouse College in 1987, she left a highly visible and successful program at Clark under the leadership of Dr. Isabella Jenkins.

Dr. Jackson served on the board of the Prairie View Honors College from 1986-92.  She and the dean of the Honors College there, Dr. Ronald J. Sheehy, began talks in 1989 on the necessity of an African-American Honors organization that would serve the specific needs of African-American Honors students and faculty.  In late 1989, Dr. Sheehy drafted a statement as the foundation for such an organization.  He and Dr. Jackson summoned almost 20 Honors directors to the Morehouse campus in May 1990 where the new organization was chartered.  Since the formation of the Association, new colleges have affiliated with the NAAAHP.  

Dr. Jackson has consulted with and visited a total of 18 Honors Programs from 1971 – 1995.  She has worked with the SRHC, the NCHC (as three year elected Board of Directors member) and the NAAAHP as a sponsor of student presenters at these national conferences.  While on the campus of Morehouse College, she completed two three-year terms as an elected faculty representative to the Morehouse College Board of Trustees and taught Honors Composition, Honors World Literature, the English Department’s Literary Form, and Survey of African-American Literature.


Conferences Through the Years