Clark Atlanta University Celebrates Alumnus Kenny Leon’s Tony Award Nomination for Best Direction of a Play

Our esteemed alumnus, the award-winning director Kenny Leon, has been nominated for best direction of a play—Purlie Victorious— for the 2024 Tony Awards. This nomination follows his previous win of a Tony Award for best direction of a play, A Raisin in the Sun, in 2014. Leon graduated from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) in 1979.  

In his 2018 memoir Take You Wherever You Go (Grand Central Publishing), Leon discusses his need to attend a historically black college or university (HBCU) to connect with his ‘black heritage,’ ‘roots,’ and ‘culture.’ “I went to visit the school (Clark College) and see Atlanta. It was everything I was looking for—a big, international city, away but not too far away from home, and a very good school. I got in.”  

“We are immensely proud of the achievements of our distinguished alumnus, Kenny Leon, and his significant contributions to the arts and theater industry,” said Charlene Gilbert, Ph.D., the Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs. “Mr. Leon’s exceptional career is a testament to creative excellence and an inspiration for all of our students who aspire to a career in the arts.” 

About Clark Atlanta University  

Clark Atlanta University was formed with the consolidation of Atlanta University and Clark College, both of which hold unique places in the annals of African American history. Atlanta University, established in 1865 by the American Missionary Association, was the nation’s first institution to award graduate degrees to African Americans. Clark College, established four years later in 1869, was the nation’s first four-year liberal arts college to serve a primarily African American student population. Today, with nearly 4,000 students, CAU is the largest of the four institutions (CAU, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Morehouse School of Medicine) that compose the Atlanta University Center Consortium. It is also the largest of the 37-member UNCF institutions. Notable alumni include: James Weldon Johnson, American civil rights activist, poet, and songwriter (Lift Every Voice and Sing – “The Black National Anthem”; Ralph David Abernathy, Sr., American civil rights activist; Congressman Hank Johnson, Georgia District 4; Kenya Barris, American award-winning television and movie producer; Kenny Leon, Tony Award-winning Broadway Director; Jacque Reid, Emmy Award-winning Television Personality and Journalist; Brandon Thompson, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for NASCAR; Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Office at the Recording Academy. To learn more about Clark Atlanta University, visit