Tony Allen, a longtime banking executive and Wilmington civic leader, has been named provost at Delaware State University.

Allen, 47, who is Bank of America's head of corporate reputation and chairman of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, will start Aug. 15 as chief academic officer at one of America's 107 historically black colleges and universities.

He will head a faculty of 212 professors and 21 departments that serve more than 4,600 undergraduate students at the Dover-based school.

Delaware State announced the hiring of Allen in a surprise 5 p.m. news release. The lengthy release included quotes from Allen and three Delaware political dignitaries — former Vice President Joe Biden, Gov. John Carney and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester.

The school's president, Harry L. Williams, called Allen's hiring as the school's No. 2 administrator a pivotal move, saying Allen is respected locally and nationally for his keen intellect and strong character.

Williams said in a statement that Allen's "leadership will put student success first and support the continued growth in the scholarship, research and community service that distinguishes our institution."

Allen will continue leading the Wilmington education panel aimed at finding ways to improve struggling, high-poverty schools in the city, the Delaware State release said.

Among his other community activities, Allen served as a panelist in May at a WHYY forum on race relations. He is the founding president of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League and co-founded Public Allies Delaware.

Biden lauded the appointment of Allen, who was his speechwriter and special assistant when he was U.S. senator for Delaware.

"I have known Tony for 20 years. When he worked for me, he was a full-time staffer, pursuing his doctoral studies, raising a family and serving on just about every board or committee of consequence in the state," Biden's statement said. " In the past few years, he has proven to be a tireless advocate for the overlooked, underserved or ignored, 100 percent committed to making this a better, more hospitable, opportunity-filled place to live and raise a family.

"Del State is a perfect fit for Tony. He embodies the school's ideals of providing the highest quality education for all, regardless of what you look like, where you come from or who you love. The university is lucky to have him, and the state of Delaware is lucky to keep him, right here, where I am sure he will continue to serve our communities with passion and purpose."

Gov. John Carney also praised Allen's hiring.

"DSU has created opportunity for diverse populations of students for generations, and it is critical that the University assume an even larger role as an economic driver in Delaware in the coming years. Tony's experience in both the public and private sectors make him uniquely qualified to lead these efforts."

Rochester said Allen "brings to the post impeccable management skills, a service-minded code of ethics, great intellect, and a humble spirit.  He is an educational hero in the eyes of Delawareans — from the boardroom to our communities."

Allen's statement called his new post a "tremendous chance to join an institution I have watched undergo an unmistakable transformation under President Williams' leadership."

Allen added that he is "equally buoyed by the tasks in front of us. Delaware State University's future depends on its success in meeting the challenges of a changing environment for higher education, and a more connected global community. Addressing these challenges requires higher levels of innovation, a strong institutional profile and the development of a unique and stable niche in an increasingly competitive and turbulent marketplace."