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Spelman College Celebrates 140 Years of Academic Excellence Share a Spelman College Press Release


Jazmyn Burton
Spelman College

Founders Day

ATLANTA (April 8, 2021) – Spelman College is marking its 140-year history through a series of events designed to celebrate its legacy and rich history.

This year’s theme, Undaunted: Founders Day @ Spelman, will allow alumnae and friends of the institution to celebrate the College’s long-standing commitment to academic excellence and service to others through a series of virtual events.

“Founded in 1881, in the basement of Friendship Baptist Church, one of the largest and most influential Black congregations in Atlanta, Spelman College has a long standing commitment to creating pathways for women through education,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman. "Although circumstances require that we spend this landmark year at a distance, we are looking forward to celebrating the legacy, established by our founders, Sophia B. Packard,  Harriet B. Giles, and the 10 women and one girl, who placed their faith in a school that would change their lives and change the world.”

The week-long event officially kicks-off at 11 a.m. EDT, Thursday, April 8, on the Zoom platform with the annual Founders Day History and Traditions Convocation, featuring editor, author and public speaker Wanda Smalls Lloyd, C'71, in conversation with her classmate and best-selling author, Tina McElroy Ansa, C'71. During the event, the alumnae will discuss their co-authored anthology, “Meeting at the Table: African-American Women Write on Race, Culture and Community.”

“While we mainly remain physically distant, we are bringing the ceremonies and events to our community globally through virtual formats, while upholding our traditions,” said Alyson Shumpert Dorsey, C'2002, senior alumnae programs manager in the Office of Alumnae Engagement. “This year’s theme, Undaunted: Founders Day @ Spelman, is a testament to the spirit in which Spelman was founded.”

In spring of 1879, New England teachers and missionaries, Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles, journeyed south to study living conditions among the recently enslaved. Appalled by what they found, particularly the lack of educational opportunities for women, they pledged to return to the South to open a school for Black women and girls. Packard and Giles returned to Georgia, and with an offer to use the basement of Friendship Baptist Church, opened the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary on April 11, 1881.

In addition to traditional events like Convocation, The Blue Record, the official podcast of the College, will host a conversation on Spelman's YouTube channel at 3 p.m., EDT, Friday, April 9, focused on what Founders Day means to a new generation of Spelman students dedicated to sisterhood and social justice.

Also on Friday, the College will also host a virtual Alumnae Celebration. During the event, the College will recognize Judge Brenda Hill Cole, C’63, as an honorary degree recipient; Gwendolyn Harris Middlebrooks, Ph.D., C’61, as the Founders Spirit awardee, and Nettie Ware, a housekeeper on Spelman's Facilities Management team, will receive the True Blue Award. 

The week will close out at 1 p.m. EDT, Sunday, April 11, with the 140th Founders Day Convocation.The event will be streamed live on, Facebook and YouTube.

For more information and to register for the week of events, visit

About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College's picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College's status is confirmed by U.S. News & World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 54 among all liberal arts colleges, No. 19 for undergraduate teaching, No. 4 for social mobility among liberal arts colleges, and No. 1 for the 14th year among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Recent initiatives include a designation by the Department of Defense as a Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, a Gender and Sexuality Studies Institute, the first endowed queer studies chair at an HBCU, and a program to increase the number of Black women Ph.D.s in economics. New majors have been added, including documentary filmmaking and photography, and partnerships have been established with MIT's Media Lab, the Broad Institute and the Army Research Lab for artificial intelligence and machine learning. Outstanding alumnae include Children's Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Rosalind Brewer, political leader Stacey Abrams, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, actress and producer Latanya Richardson Jackson, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones. For more information, visit Spelman College.


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