Message from the Board Chair
March 28, 2015
Dear Spelman Community,
I am incredibly pleased to announce the Spelman College Board of Trustees has unanimously and enthusiastically elected Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell as the 10th president of Spelman College. Dr. Campbell is dean emerita of the Tisch School of the Arts and university professor in the Department of Art and Public Policy at New York University. Dr. Campbell’s appointment is effective August 1, 2015, following the completion of Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum’s 13 years of outstanding leadership and service.
I invite you to learn more about Dr. Campbell’s journey to Spelman here, and I would like to share precisely why the Board voted unanimously to appoint her. Quite simply, Dr. Campbell is the right leader at the right time. She joins Spelman during a period of momentous change in higher education, and the College’s unique history, mission and proven success provide a solid foundation from which I am confident she will chart a clear and bold direction for the future. The next phase of Spelman’s growth calls for a visionary with a solid administrative track record to further elevate Spelman’s leadership on issues of critical importance to our nation and indeed our world – issues such as college access and completion, affirmation of the value of a liberal arts and sciences education, global integration, health disparities, technology innovation and many more.
A graduate of Swarthmore College, Dr. Campbell has a master’s of science degree in art history and a doctorate in humanities from Syracuse University. She is an accomplished scholar and a leader in both the public and non-profit sectors. As dean, Dr. Campbell elevated the profile and stature of Tisch, increased the recruitment of a more diverse faculty and student body, and led an unprecedented capital campaign for the school. One of her biggest accomplishments was spearheading efforts to integrate art and design into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines at NYU. As STEAM (the integration of art and design into the STEM equation) becomes a larger part of the conversation for 21st century institutions, Dr. Campbell has been in the vanguard of those promoting STEAM efforts at Tisch and in the broader New York University system.
In fact, throughout her entire career, Dr. Campbell has been a driver of innovation with a particular commitment to organizations that advance the achievement and inclusion of people of color. Most notably, she was responsible for shepherding the first accreditation of a Black fine arts museum in the nation as the executive director of the Studio Museum in Harlem. When she assumed the helm of the organization, she transformed what was simply a rented loft into a space housing groundbreaking exhibitions, an acclaimed artist-in-residence program and permanent exhibitions. She literally put the museum on the map and many of the exhibitions are regarded as hallmarks in literature regarding Black and American culture.
Dr. Campbell also previously served as New York City’s cultural affairs commissioner and in 2009, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as the vice chair of the Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, a non-partisan advisory group. In this role, Dr. Campbell led the effort to conduct a pilot study that re-affirmed the arts as one of the ingredients essential to a quality education and a student’s long-term academic success.
Dr. Campbell integrates her exemplary professional life with a full family life. She is a native of Philadelphia and graduated from Philadelphia High School for Girls. Dr. Campbell’s father graduated from Cheyney University and went on to serve as president of its council of trustees. She is the mother of three sons, one of whom serves as provost at Morehouse College and who is married to a Spelman alumna. Her youngest son is a graduate of the Naval Academy, another son is an attorney, and Dr. Campbell is the grandmother of six grandchildren. She has been married for 47 years to Dr. George Campbell, Jr., president emeritus of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and, together, they enjoy outdoor activities including skiing, cycling, walking and swimming.
A board’s most important responsibility is to attract and support an outstanding leader and we did not take the charge to find the next steward of our beloved Spelman lightly. The members of the Presidential Search Committee (PSC), led by Dr. Celeste Watkins-Hayes, C’96, vice chair of the board, developed an issues-driven process that was well-executed, appropriately inclusive and appropriately transparent. In fall 2014, the committee gathered information about our community’s aspirations and expectations for the future, resulting in a robust leadership profile. It is this profile and the issues identified by our stakeholders within that drove this process. The result was a strong, diverse and inclusive pool of approximately 300 prospects encompassing alumnae and individuals from traditional and non-traditional backgrounds, as well as a wide variety of disciplines and institutions. Through a rigorous assessment process, the PSC narrowed the pool and ultimately recommended Dr. Campbell as a finalist to visit campus. Following a successful campus visit and upon reviewing the feedback gathered from a community-wide online survey, the PSC made its recommendation to the Board of Trustees for final approval.
I want to again thank the Presidential Search Committee for its astute stewardship of the search process and ongoing efforts to ensure the leadership succession will be seamless. Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell is enterprising and exhibits tremendous clarity in responding to challenges with sustainable solutions. She is a true interdisciplinary scholar with exemplary skills to guide us as we consider our unique role in developing and supporting women leaders of African descent who intentionally make “a choice to change the world” in meaningful ways.
Rosalind Gates Brewer, C’84
Chair, Spelman College Board of Trustees