Dr. Vernell Bennett-Fairs began her tenure as the 13th president of LeMoyne-Owen College on January 5, 2021. Dr. Bennett-Fairs is the second woman chosen to lead the only historically black college or university in Memphis, TN.
A native of Lorain, Ohio, Dr. Bennett-Fairs is a trained vocalist and orator who has served as a tenured associate professor and college administrator in progressive roles in her twenty-five years in higher education. However, her most cherished role is that of student advocate. Formerly, Dr. Bennett-Fairs served as the Vice President for Student Affairs at Delta State University (DSU). There, she was responsible for the oversight of the Office of Admissions, the Office of Financial Aid, University Police, the Office of Student Development, Housing and Residence Life, the University Health Center, and the Office of Career Counseling and Placement.
During her tenure at DSU, Dr. Bennett-Fairs founded the Okra Patch, which is an engagement initiative for students, faculty, staff, administration, alumni and community members. Other innovative Student Affairs programming projects that Dr. Bennett-Fairs spearheaded at DSU included: the annual men’s and women’s conferences and leadership retreat for student leaders, the international festival Culture on the Quad, the Statesmen Club pipeline of recruitment of high school and community college students, and Each One Recruit One. Dr. Bennett-Fairs guided DSU’s Office of Admissions’ recruitment operations and marketing, developed virtual recruitment and tours, and created contemporary methods of recruitment including utilizing social media. Her all-hands-on-deck approach to recruitment fostered successful collaborations across the campus and within the community. Dr. Bennett-Fairs was also responsible for establishing the campus’ food pantry, the Statesman’s Shelf.
Dr. Bennett-Fairs began her postsecondary career at Kentucky State University (KSU) as a non-tenure tract Instructor of Music and advanced to the rank of tenured Associate Professor before transitioning to several administration roles. Dr. Bennett-Fairs’ career spanned 20 years at KSU where her final role was as the Vice President for Student Affairs.
Dr. Bennett-Fairs is the founder of Operation Half-Note Incorporated, a music institute geared toward pre-kindergartners that she founded at KSU. She earned a Governor’s Award in the Arts (the most prestigious honor bestowed upon citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky) for this groundbreaking program. Dr. Bennett-Fairs left a legacy at KSU as the creative mind behind the Thorobred Express mobile recruitment initiative. Her accomplishments at KSU are innumerable, but some of her most noteworthy include the aforementioned and having served as the President of the Faculty Senate for two consecutive terms. To date, she is the youngest person to have served as the Faculty Senate president at KSU.
Dr. Bennett-Fairs is a former Who’s Who among College and University Professors. She was identified as a Top Minority Business Leader for 2019 by the Delta Business Journal. Her most prized honors however, are those bestowed upon her by the students, which include: KSU Girls Rock, Woman of the Year, the SGA Award of Accomplishment, and her first DSU student award, a Lady Statesman Emerald Award of Excellence for Top Female Administrator.
Dr. Bennett-Fairs’ student-centered and collaborative approach as an administrator has resulted in hundreds of campus and off-campus partnerships in support of the tens of thousands of students that she has served in her 25-year career. A creative and innovative administrator, Dr. Bennett-Fairs has been the mastermind behind successful recruitment strategies and creative and innovative programming at Delta State University and Kentucky State University.
Dr. Bennett-Fairs is currently a protégé in the 2020-2021 cohort of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ Millennium Leadership Initiative (MLI). She is an alum of the Executive Leadership Summit, the Hawkins-Scott Leadership Institute, Leadership Kentucky, and Leadership Mississippi. Dr. Bennett-Fairs is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and the Mississippi Delta Chapter of the Links, Incorporated. Dr. Bennett is also a member of the Rotary Club.
Dr. Bennett-Fairs received a Bachelor’s of Music in Vocal Performance from Fisk University, a Master of Arts in Vocal Performance from Eastern Michigan University, and a Doctorate of Education in Administration and Instruction from the University of Kentucky.
Dr. Bennett-Fairs is married to Patric Fairs and has one adult son, Jeffery.