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Alumnae Stories

Founders Spirit Awardee Dr. Gwendolyn Harris Middlebrooks, C’61

April 2021

Gwendolyn Harris Middlebrooks c61Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Dr.  Gwendolyn Harris Middlebrooks moved to Atlanta, Georgia with her family at the age of nine. At the age of ten, she began social justice awareness and religious education as a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church, under the leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King Sr.
She attended C.W. Hill and John Hope Elementary Schools during these years and later graduated from David T. Howard High School of the Atlanta Public School System in 1957. She continued her educational pursuits, earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Spelman College in 1961, a Master of Science degree from Springfield College in 1966, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership from Georgia State University in 1979. She continued with post-doctoral studies at Georgia State University, completing 55 hours and earning the Georgia 7th Level Certificate in Educational Administration.

During her undergraduate years at Spelman College, Dr. Middlebrooks was actively involved in the “Atlanta Student Movement,” participated in the first “Sit-Ins” at restaurants in the City of Atlanta and was arrested at the Georgia State Capitol. Those “Sit-Ins” and subsequent “picketing” at restaurants and businesses were planned, organized and initiated by Atlanta University Center students, and resulted in the desegregation of restaurants and other facilities in Atlanta.

Dr. Middlebrooks began her teaching career in the Atlanta Public School System in 1961 and taught at the high school level for five years before returning to Spelman where she was employed for 42 years. As a tenured faculty member and administrator in the Education Department, Dr. Middlebrooks’ research, publications and presentations throughout the years were focused on teacher leadership, leadership preparation and teacher education. Her extensive knowledge of educational issues, leadership, administration and management is demonstrated in her annual service for more than 30 years on national and state teacher accreditation committees.

While equipping future leaders in education, she also served as an academic adviser to first-year students and students seeking teacher certification. Dr. Middlebrooks served as Spelman adviser for the Eta Kappa Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated for 15 years, faculty secretary for 10 years, and chair of the education department for eight years.

She currently serves as the southeast regional coordinator of Kappa Delta Epsilon, is an active member of the Georgia Association of Teacher Educators, and the Association of Teacher Educators; serving as chairperson of the School Violence Prevention Special Interest Group. Dr. Middlebrooks has annually engaged in community service by serving on the board of the Associated Marine Institute for Kids in Georgia, the board of the Andrew and Walter Young YMCA, and provided support for the Women’s Shelter for more than 20 years. She is a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College, and Delta Sigma Theta Inc., and is a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where she has worked in the nursery and taught Sunday School for more than 50 years.

Dr. Middlebrooks is married to James T. Middlebrooks, and they are the proud parents of two daughters who are graduates of Spelman College, Jayne Middlebrooks Morgan, M.D., C’84, and V. Leah Middlebrooks Johnson, M.D., C’91, and a son, Kevin James Middlebrooks, who is a graduate of Morehouse College, C‘95.  Additionally, her mother worked as a dormitory director at Spelman College for 19 years and loved the students. Dr. Middlebrooks established an endowed scholarship in her mothers’ name, Mrs. Lillie Mae Harris, to provide financial support for future Spelman students.