Dr. Wilma Mishoe celebrates a year as president of Delaware State University./Photo by Maria DeForrest â€‹
Becoming president of Delaware State University wasn’t accepting a job for Dr. Wilma Mishoe, it was coming home.
Mishoe, who this month is finishing her first official year as the 11th president of the university, came out of retirement to accept the position after serving as interim president for six months.
“How could you say no to your home?” she asks. “That’s still my family.”
Mishoe remembers the first time she saw the Delaware State campus. It was 1960 and she was 12 years old, arriving in a blue station wagon. Her father, Luna I. Mishoe, had just become president of what was then Delaware State College.
Dover was more rural back then, “a lot of cornfields.” She lived on campus with her family, most of the faculty members and 250 students. It’s where she grew up.
“That was my neighborhood and community,” she says.
A lot has changed at the school since then. There are more buildings, more courses of study and a lot more students. Two things have not changed, though: the mission and the family atmosphere, says Mishoe. The school is about opportunity and access for anyone and everyone who truly wants a college education.
“Everyone is very connected and loyal and supportive of each other,” she says.
Keeping it that way as the university continues to grow is Mishoe’s mission. If anyone can do it, she can, says university board member Harold Stafford. Mishoe is known for her integrity, commitment, consensus building and positive attitude, he says.
“Her whole approach is to be as inclusive as possible. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her angry,” says Stafford, who has known Mishoe for more than 40 years. “Students are her No. 1 priority.”
Her son, Dover City Councilman Roy Sudler Jr., describes her as an “absolutely wonderful dedicated servant of humanity and higher education.”
“She’s not just my mother, she’s a mother figure to a lot of people,” he says. “Students come up to hug her all the time.” He wasn’t surprised when she became president of the university—she has authentic leadership skills, he says, and her resume is “like a journal.”
Education is in her blood. In addition to her father being president of the university, her mother founded the nursing program there.
In her own career, Mishoe served as dean of students and director of financial aid at then-Wilmington College before moving to Delaware Technical Community College. She retired after 30 years there serving as, among other things, dean of the Office of Instruction and dean of Student Services. Then, when she says she had no further career aspirations, she was asked to be acting president of Wilberforce University in Ohio, where she served a year while helping to find the new president there.
Serving as the president of Delaware State University is more of an honor than a job, she says. She sees her future in helping the college continue to grow.
“We are still not that well known,” she says. She often starts conversations with people by pointing out different aspects of the university they might not know about—like that it has a pre-veterinarian program or owns a fleet of planes for the aviation program.
“She will take it to greatness, and the next person coming in will be able to just pick up where she left off,” says Sudler.
Mishoe says she’s just happy to serve, especially now that she will be welcoming the fourth generation of her family to the campus this fall when her granddaughter enters as a freshman.
“I just feel like I am continuing to honor my family legacy,” she says.
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