Feature Story: Dr. Adena Williams Loston – Aiming Higher for Higher Education

Dr. Adena Williams Loston

President of St. Philip’s College

by Meredith Kay

“Inspiring Students to Believe That They Can Achieve Anything”

Dr. Adena Williams Loston has had a career that would humble the most successful professional. It has taken her from a small town in Mississippi, across to the West Coast, back to Washington, D.C. to work for NASA, and finally to Texas, where she currently serves as the President of St. Philip’s College.

Dr. Loston has been the President for nearly 15 years now, and she has seen the Alamo Community College District grow and change in many positive ways. Born and raised in Vicksburg, Mississippi, she grew up in a strong household with four siblings, who were all expected to go to college and to learn a skill or trade that they could fall back on. Her father was the first black licensed master plumber in Vicksburg, and a shrewd businessman. She claims, “I acquired my business acumen from my father.”

It was her older sister, Yvonne Williams Friday, who inspired her growing up, along with three of her high school teachers. Together, they instilled the drive to pursue excellence in her education, and that carried through to her stellar career. Dr. Loston followed in her sister’s footsteps and received her undergraduate degree from Alcorn State University, and then went on to receive her master’s degree and her doctorate degree in Educational Administration & Supervision from Bowling Green State University.

Her career in education has been quite diverse. She has served as the President of San Jacinto College South in Houston, Executive Dean & Provost for the El Paso Community College District, and Dean of Professional Programs at Santa Monica College in California. However, her most unique career achievement came when she was courted by the highest administrators at NASA to head up the educational enterprise for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Washington, D.C. Dr. Loston turned the position down four times, until a conversation with a student, about taking a leap of faith to achieve more than you believe you can, inspired her to take that job. Dr. Loston became the highest-ranking African American female administrator at NASA. As the Senior Education Officer, she created and directed several educational programs for NASA astronaut educators and explorer schools.

As President of St. Philip’s College, Dr. Loston has had much success. Under her leadership, enrollment has increased tremendously, and she has implemented several programs that engage students and offer resources that allow them to remain on the college path to a degree. She has also overseen the addition of nine new buildings on campus and managed a budget of $350 million in renovations and enhancements. 

Although her initial plan was to only stay in San Antonio for four years, she continues to contribute positively to St. Philip’s and the students that pass through its halls. She states, “We take students of all ages and backgrounds. We know that they have competing priorities, so we have created wrap-around programs that will help them not only navigate their education but will also help them organize those priorities so that they can navigate through life successfully.” 

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