Atlanta: Spelman College Elects Helene Gayle as Next President

know about Atlanta: Spelman College Elects Helene Gayle as Next President

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ATLANTA (AP) — Spelman College, one of only two historically black colleges for women in the country, on Monday elected as its president an epidemiologist who spent decades fighting AIDS and HIV before becoming the leader of an international anti-AIDS group. poverty.

Trustees of the private Atlanta university voted unanimously Monday to make Dr. Helene Gayle its 11th president, effective July 1. The current president, Mary Schmidt Campbell, announced her planned retirement last year.

Gayle will take over as the fallout from the Black Lives Matter movement has fueled a surge in private donations to Spelman and other historically black colleges and universities, especially those at the top tier.

Gayle, 66, is currently president of the Chicago Community Trust, a community foundation. She said that when she was approached to lead Spelman, she was drawn to being “a place where young women can really tap into who they are, really develop a sense of confidence as women.”

The 2,400-student school is one of the nation’s leading historically black institutions, part of the Atlanta University Center, a consortium of four historically black schools. Gayle said she wants to build on Spelman’s strength to send students to careers in medicine, science, technology, engineering and math.

Trustee Kaye Foster said Spelman leaders liked Gayle’s ability to raise money in her position in Chicago, saying the trust’s assets have grown from $2.8 billion to $4.7 billion under her leadership. The foundation has focused on reducing the racial and ethnic wealth gap in the city. Foster also cites Gayle’s ability to set and execute priorities, her experience working in large institutions, and a career as a “servant and humanitarian leader.”

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“Although she is not a Spelman alumna, in many ways she has lived our Spelman motto,” said Foster. “She has made decisions to change the world at all times.”

Gayle lived for decades in Atlanta while working for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After a stint at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation overseeing HIV, tuberculosis and reproductive health policy, she returned to Atlanta as president and CEO of CARE USA, a key part of an international humanitarian group that fights poverty by focusing on women and girls. She is also a member of the board of directors for Coca-Cola Co., an Atlanta corporate icon.

Trained as a pediatrician, Gayle has received 18 honorary degrees, including from Emory University and Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta and Agnes Scott University in Decatur.

Spelman and other HBCUs have focused on reducing costs and student loans. Today, more than three-quarters of Spelman students get need-based aid, but 92% end up with loans, with a loan of more than $27,000 on average, according to data released by the university.

Gayle said he plans to introduce donors to the idea that HBCUs are effective in helping the poorest students lift themselves out of poverty, reducing income inequality.

“Any woman who has an academic background and wants to get an education at Spelman should be able to do it, and should be able to do it without having to rack up the kind of debt that is often crippling for someone just starting out. in her career,” Gayle said.

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He also said he intends to focus on a key student life concern, the lack of housing on the Spelman campus. Fewer than 60% of students live on campus today.

“I think there are creative ways that we can think about this issue,” Gayle said. “It became a priority and it will be a priority for me.”

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