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20. Tony Atwater

Updated: May 10, 2013 - 2:35 pm

Posted: May 10, 2013

Listed with the up-and-coming people to watch in 2012, Norfolk State University President Tony Atwater not only made it on the list of the 75 most influential people in Hampton Roads this year, he ranked among the top 25.

Taking over as president July 1, 2011, Atwater wasted no time making changes. With his oversight, the new 132,000-square-foot Lyman Beecher Brooks Library was constructed. He obtained state funding to build a 142,000-square-foot nursing and allied health building, which will be completed in August 2014. He created the Spartan Crusade for Academic Success, a program designed to improve graduation rates, and opened the Spartan Success Center, a facility where mentoring and tutoring services are offered.

Atwater has also focused on developing a connection with the business community by establishing the President's Business and Economic Development Advisory Council, made up of area executives.

"The goal is to work with the president to develop partnerships that promote economic development in the Hampton Roads region and facilitate further development and growth of NSU," Atwater said.

The Regional Economic Impact Report, which was released in April and found that the school contributes $171 million to the local economy, is another one of Atwater's NSU accomplishments.

Born in Nashville, Atwater was a military brat and lived across the country throughout his formative years.

"My dad was in the Air Force," he said. " I grew up, part of my life, in Japan and Germany."

When he was in junior high, Atwater's family settled in Roanoke, which he now calls his second home. After two years at Virginia Western Community College, Atwater transferred to Hampton University where he received his bachelor's degree in mass media. He held various jobs in radio and TV, including a position as a reporter, throughout western Virginia. With 12 years of professional media experience, Atwater was accepted into the doctorate program at Michigan State without a master's degree. There he became the first African American to serve as the president of the Association for Education and Journalism and Mass Communications.

Before coming to NSU, Atwater was president of Indiana University in Pennsylvania, a campus of 15,000 students near Pittsburgh; was provost at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio; dean of the college of professional studies at Northern Kentucky University; the associate vice president of academic affairs at the University of Toledo; and chair of the department of journalism and mass media at Rutgers University.

Atwater serves on a number of various community boards including the General Douglas MacArthur Foundation, WHRO Board of Directors, TowneBank Board of Directors and the Executive Leadership Team of the South Hampton Roads American Heart Association Start! Heart Walk.

He is chairman of the Virginia Tidewater Consortium for Higher Education Board of Directors and is a member of the Greater Norfolk Corporation Board of Directors, as well as the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce Board of Trustees and Board of Directors, the Hampton Roads Partnership, Smart Beginnings South Hampton Roads Board of Directors, Urban League of Hampton Roads Board of Directors and Economics Club Hampton Roads.