April 25, 2022

Dear Spelman Community,

I am incredibly pleased to announce that the Spelman College Board of Trustees has unanimously and enthusiastically elected Helene D. Gayle, M.D., MPH, as the 11th president of Spelman College.

Dr. Gayle is currently president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, one of the nation's oldest and largest community foundations. Her appointment is effective July 1, 2022, following the completion of Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell’s seven years of outstanding leadership and service.

I invite you to learn more about Dr. Gayle’s journey to Spelman here, and I would like to share precisely why the Board voted unanimously to appoint her.

As the College emerges, strong as ever, from the challenges of operating during a global pandemic, and at the close of an unparalleled capital campaign, we need a leader that will sustain the College’s momentum and push us forward in areas like STEM and entrepreneurship where future jobs are going to be created. Quite simply, Dr. Gayle is the right leader for this time.

Dr. Gayle joins Spelman during a period of momentous change in higher education. The College’s unique history, mission, and proven success provide a solid foundation from which I am confident she will build upon and chart a clear and bold direction for the future. The next phase of Spelman’s growth calls for a visionary with a solid administrative track record to further elevate Spelman’s leadership on issues of critical importance to our nation and indeed our world. Issues such as college affordability, access, and success; technology innovation; the arts, entrepreneurship; the value of a liberal arts and sciences education; global integration; health and wealth disparities; social justice; and many more.

Dr. Gayle grew up in Buffalo, New York, in a family that valued educational achievements and instilled in her the importance of making a positive contribution to communities and society. Dr. Gayle chose the medical profession because it was a way to do both. Though trained as a pediatrician, she migrated to public health because of her desire to apply the tools of medicine to solve health challenges at the population level. She spent 20 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During that time, Dr. Gayle had multiple different assignments with increasing levels of responsibility, culminating in leading the largest Center at CDC, and retiring at the rank of Rear Admiral and Assistant Surgeon General. She spent much of her time at CDC focused on HIV/AIDS both in the United States and globally and particularly addressing the disproportionate impact on Black and Hispanic/Latinx communities in this country and on women globally.

Because of Dr. Gayle’s work in global health and HIV/AIDS, she was recruited to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in its very early days as they developed their focus on global health. As fulfilling as this role was, she began to appreciate that much of the unequal health status and disparities in health could not be adequately tackled by health interventions alone.

Today, we know that the social determinants of health — the conditions in which people are born, live, learn and work   have more to do with determining health outcomes than health interventions and access to health services alone. Dr. Gayle was, therefore, excited to respond to the call to lead the global humanitarian and poverty fighting organization, CARE. During her nearly decade-long tenure at CARE, she helped reshape the organization with a focus on empowering girls and women as the best way to create lasting change towards the goal of eliminating extreme poverty around the world.

After many years focused on global challenges, Dr. Gayle was drawn to addressing the issues here in the United States that were increasingly highlighted by inequities and divisiveness. Moving to the Chicago Community Trust (CCT), the community foundation for the Chicago region, gave her the opportunity to address these issues in a substantive way. Under her leadership, CCT launched a new strategy focused on closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap at the local level.

Although Dr. Gayle has not had a full-time position in academia, she has engaged in academic and scholarly work through adjunct and clinical professorships, membership on think tank boards, and serving on studies and commissions for the National Academy of Medicine and American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Additionally, she has been awarded multiple honorary degrees in recognition of her work and achievements.

I speak for all the trustees when I say Dr. Gayle’s career is indicative of the long line of Spelman presidents who join our community with a desire to create positive social change and to work towards greater equity and social justice, combined with the experiences and expertise to achieve the excellence that is the hallmark of the Spelman brand.

Dr. Gayle has shared with us that "throughout my career, I have enjoyed and become skilled at transforming organizations and optimizing their performance. I also have increasingly found great joy in mentoring and doing my part to develop the next generation of leaders and change makers. One of the other through lines has been my long association with the Atlanta community. Over the span of almost 30 years, I came to know and love Atlanta and believe Spelman can continue to develop its engagement with the Atlanta community."

I hope this snapshot of Dr. Gayle gives some perspective on what she will bring to the role of president of Spelman College. It is hard to imagine a better individual with the requisite experiences and values that can be put to use at such a critical time in Spelman’s history.

A board’s most important responsibility is to attract and support an outstanding leader and we did not take the charge to find the next steward of our beloved Spelman lightly. The members of the Presidential Search Committee (PSC), led by Trustees Kaye Foster and Gena Hudgins Ashe, C’83, conducted a months-long search to identify a leader who embodies the Spelman mission of academic excellence and global leadership, and whose experience and expertise will build on the College’s momentum in key areas.

In considering the Search Committee’s recommendation, the Board of Trustees focused on priorities for Spelman’s 11th president, some of which included increasing or improving the student experience, such as safety and housing, building on Spelman’s fiscal strength, and maintaining the college’s attraction to diverse and talented students, faculty, and staff.

It is this profile, and the issues identified by our stakeholders within, that drove this process. The result was a strong, diverse, and inclusive pool of approximately 300 prospects encompassing alumnae and individuals from traditional and non-traditional backgrounds, as well as a wide variety of disciplines and institutions. Through a rigorous assessment process, the PSC narrowed the pool and ultimately recommended Dr. Gayle to the Board of Trustees for final approval.

I want to again thank the Presidential Search Committee for its astute stewardship of the search process and ongoing efforts to ensure the leadership succession will be seamless. Dr. Gayle is a true scholar with exemplary skills to guide us as we fulfill our distinctive role of developing and supporting women leaders of African descent who intentionally make "a choice to change the world" in meaningful ways.

Rosalind Gates Brewer, C’84

Chair, Spelman College Board of Trustees

Spelman College
350 Spelman Lane
Atlanta, Georgia 30314

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