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Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.

President Mary Schmidt CampbellIn March of 2015, Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., was named Spelman’s 10th president. She began her professional career in New York, as the director of the Studio Museum in Harlem at a time when the city of New York was on the verge of bankruptcy. Under her leadership, the museum became the country’s first accredited Black fine arts museum and a linchpin in the redevelopment of Harlem. She then served as commissioner of cultural affairs for New York City under two mayors, and from there entered the world of academia as dean of New York University’s renowned Tisch School of the Arts, where she served for over two decades. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed her vice chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Currently, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she serves as a trustee of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the J. Paul Getty Trust, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and as a director of Unity Technologies.

Viewing Spelman as a “necessity,” to “reach an ideal of equality,” Dr. Campbell launched Imagine. Invent. Ascend, a bold new strategic vision for the College that builds on the College’s legendary legacy to educate Black women for the 21st century. Her focus has been on ensuring that every Spelman student graduates with a competitive edge, expanding Spelman’s strategic partnerships, deepening its excellence in STEM, wedding that strength to art, innovation and technology, and expanding signature academic programs that leverage Spelman's scholarly and creative excellence. To support this vision, under Dr. Campbell’s leadership, the College has raised in four years, over 102% of its $250 million dollar capital campaign goal, the largest comprehensive campaign in the history of Spelman.

Dr. Campbell has a B.A. in English literature from Swarthmore College, a master’s in art history and a Ph.D. in humanities from Syracuse University. She is the author of the award-winning book, “An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden,” (Oxford, 2018) and frequently speaks on issues of higher education and African American art and culture. She is the mother of three sons, seven grandchildren and lives in Atlanta with her husband of 53 years, George Campbell, Jr., Ph.D., president emeritus of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Art and Science.

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President's Update

Thanks to each of you and your committed adherence to all of our safety protocols we have successfully welcomed more than 2300 students to campus and held many in-person classes, while maintaining a campus positivity rate that is less than 1%. Bravo!


Special Guest Presenter for The Rockefeller University, Pearl Meister Greengard Prize

President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., was the special guest presenter at The Rockefeller University, 18th Annual Pearl Meister Greengard Prize award ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. The prize was awarded to Dr. Pamela J. Björkman, the David Baltimore Professor of Biology and Bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology.


Spelman President Receives Honorary Degree From Duke University

President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Duke University during the Class of 2020 Commencement ceremony acknowledging her distinguished academic career and advocacy work in the arts and humanities. The original May 2020 ceremony was delayed until Sept. 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Dolores Bradley Brennan Appointed Interim Provost

President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., recently announced that Dolores Bradley Brennan, Ph.D., has been appointed interim provost of Spelman College. Dr. Bradley Brennan, who came to Spelman in 2001 under a joint appointment with the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University, was most recently vice provost for faculty and associate vice president of academic affairs. 


ICI Virtual Fireside Chat: What Juneteenth Means to Me, to the African American Community, and to All Americans

Juneteenth commemorates a pivotal moment in American history. Be part of the growing conversation about what this day means to African Americans, to our country, and to the ideal of freedom. Renowned art historian, curator, educator, cultural influencer, and academic Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, the 10th president of Spelman College, took part in a candid discussion moderated by Anne Robinson, managing director and general counsel of The Vanguard Group.


Spelman’s President Shares Strategies to Reduce Student Debt

Spelman’s in-depth study into the financial aid needs of our students several years ago reinforced our understanding of one of this country’s fundamental inequities: high performing, high need students are drastically underfunded. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that racial fault lines continue to make the lives of African Americans quantitatively harder than those of non-Black Americans. This is a disquieting realization.


On Oct. 27, 2020, The Wildenstein Plattner Institute hosted a virtual panel that considered the issues involved in maintaining an artist’s legacy, including the importance of archival preservation and the active documentation of the artist’s practice.

Over the next 10 years, 200 first-year students will be able to attend Spelman College with a full four-year scholarship thanks to a generous gift from philanthropists Patty Quillin and her husband, Reed Hastings, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Netflix.


PODCAST: Rockefeller Education Panel - Perspectives on Preparing for the Fall

Rockefeller Client Insights In this 10th episode of Rockefeller Client Insights, we get to listen in as Greg Fleming has a dialogue with Connie Ledoux Book, president of Elon University, Brian Casey, president of Colgate University and Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, president of Spelman College about the current state of higher education amidst the COVID-19 landscape and what preparations each leader is taking for their respective institutions and communities looking forward into the fall season. Originally broadcast live June 5, 2020.


UnitedHealth Group Announces $8.25 Million Data Science Initiative Partnership With the Atlanta University Center Consortium

Spelman College is part of a new initiative designed to prepare students within the Atlanta University Center Consortium to meet the growing demand for data scientists and data analytics experts.

“The colleges in the Atlanta University Center, for decades, have been in the vanguard of educating African Americans who succeed in STEM fields,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman. “This gift is an investment in our commitment to continue that primacy in STEM by making the AUCC a center of excellence for the study of data science across a range of disciplines in medicine and the liberal arts.”


In her biography, "An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden," art historian and Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., chronicles the life and career of the influential African American artist Romare Bearden. Listen as she takes a deep dive into his life and carer on this podcast.


New Center will Solidify Spelman’s Place at Intersection of Science, Arts

President Campbell speaks with reporter Maria Saporta and explains how Spelman's proposed Center for Innovation and the Arts has been central to bringing her to Atlanta. “I want to look back over my shoulder and say, ‘I came to this rich storied place, and I made a contribution that took it to the next level,’” she said. “Whatever we do has to capture the uniqueness of the black woman’s voice,” as stated in the article.


Closer Look: New Ga. Reps; Spelman's President; And More

Beginning at approximately at the 9:09 time stamp, Dr. Campbell discusses the first year of her presidency and how liberal arts colleges address current concerns about funding.


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An American Odyssey by Mary Schmidt Campbell