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Historical Spelman

Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.

Ninth President, Spelman College

Beverly Daniel TatumOn August 1, 2002, scholar, teacher, author, administrator and race relations expert, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum became the ninth president of Spelman College. She set an expectation that Spelman College would be recognized as one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country — a place where young women of African descent could say, “This place was built for me, and it is nothing less than the best!” Spelman is now widely recognized as one of the leading liberal arts colleges in the nation.

Dr. Tatum is the former acting president of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she served as a professor of psychology and education and later as chair of the Department. In 1998, Dr. Tatum was appointed Dean of the College and Vice President for Student Affairs. While in that position, she directed the offices of the Dean of Students, Religious and Spiritual Life, Career Development and Health Services. She also managed the academic advising system and advocated for students’ interests among faculty and senior staff. Prior to serving at Mount Holyoke, Dr. Tatum was a faculty member at Westfield State College from 1983-1989 and a lecturer at the University of California at Santa Barbara from 1980-1983. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Wesleyan University and Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan, as well as the Master of Arts degree in religious studies from Hartford Seminary.

A nationally recognized authority on racial issues in America and a licensed clinical psychologist, she has toured extensively, leading workshops and presenting papers and lectures on racial identity development. Dr. Tatum is the author of the critically acclaimed book, Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race, which was released as a fifth anniversary edition in January 2003. Since its original publication in 1997, the book has been listed on the Independent Bookstore Bestseller list and was selected as the multicultural book of the year in 1998 by the National Association of Multicultural Education. The New York Times recommended the book as required reading for private school teachers and administrators in the greater New York area who were dealing with issues of race and class. Dr. Tatum is also the author of Assimilation Blues: Black Families in a White Community (1987) and has published widely in social science and education journals. In May 2007, Dr. Tatum released Can We Talk About Race?: And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation.

During her tenure, the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (LEADS) was created, and it established an annual Women of Color Leadership Conference. In 2008, the Gordon-Zeto Fund for International Initiatives was established with a gift of $17 million that increased opportunities for international travel for students and faculty and provided additional financial aid for international students. Overall, scholarship support for Spelman students has doubled since 2002, and opportunities for faculty research and development have expanded significantly. Through the Every Woman, Every Year Initiative launched in 2006, alumnae support of the annual fund has grown to close to 40 percent.

Building on this momentum, the College implemented Strengthening the Core: The Strategic Plan for 2015, which focuses on enhancing its academic core curriculum through Global engagement, Opportunities for research and/or internships, Alumnae connections, Leadership development, and Service Learning (GOALS). In addition, a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), “Going Global,” has been created to enhance the College’s infrastructure to connect global experiences that cultivate international awareness and cross-cultural competencies in a more intentional way.

Campus improvements during Dr. Tatum’s tenure include the award-winning renovation of four historic buildings and campus expansion. The 2008 completion of a new “green” residence hall increased residential housing capacity on the campus by more than 25 percent and signaled the College’s commitment to environmental sustainability. The Suites is the first ever LEED Silver certified building on a historically black college or university. Strengthening its commitment to environmental sustainability, the Spelman College Board of Trustees adopted the policy that all new construction and renovations would be completed at no less than LEED Silver standards. The renovation of Laura Spelman Rockefeller Hall, completed in the fall of 2012, received a LEED Gold Certification. In recognition of Dr. Tatum’s significant impact upon the capital improvement of the College during her tenure, The Suites were dedicated as The Beverly Daniel Tatum Suites in spring of 2015.

Under Dr. Tatum’s leadership, Spelman College launched its Wellness Revolution in 2012. The Wellness Revolution is a holistic initiative designed to empower and educate Spelman women and the communities they will influence on key components of lifelong wellness – eating better, moving more and sleeping well. In 2013, the Carnegie Corporation of New York named Dr. Tatum as a recipient of its 2013 Academic Leadership Award, recognizing her as an exceptional president of a U.S. college or university. She was the first president in the state of Georgia and the first at an historically black college or university to win the award.

In 2014, Spelman College announced that it exceeded its comprehensive fundraising campaign goal, generating $157.8 million and raising the largest amount in the history of the institution. The campaign attracted support for scholarships, academic initiatives, and campus renewal. Of the more than 18,000 campaign donors, a record-breaking 12,000 alumnae, representing 71 percent, made a gift to the campaign.

Dr. Tatum retired in July of 2015 as President Emerita to focus on her work as an author, speaker and expert on issues related to racial identity.