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Helene Gayle, MD, has been named the 11th president of Spelman College by the Board of Trustees!

Spelman College has a long and proud history of quality and global leadership in the education of African-American women, and it is dedicated to tackling racial injustices in education and guaranteeing equal opportunity for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

The newly appointed president, Dr. Gayle, will commence on July 1, 2022.

“There’s so much to be excited about,” Dr. Gayle stated when asked what she is most excited about when fulfilling this prestigious role.

She continued.

“First and foremost, as an African-American woman, the opportunity to help to shape the lives of young African-American women who want to be change-makers, you know, and have an impact on their world.”

She expressed that she aims to help boost the morale of those incoming students who feel they aren’t as confident starting college as their peers.

“The role of the president is to make sure that everyone else has the resources that they need to do their jobs,” Dr. Gayle said.

Barnard College's 7th Annual Global Symposium

Photo by: Noam Galai/WireImage

She continued.

“Number one for me is to really think about how to make sure that the promise of Spelman is affordable and available to many young women as possible. To be able to recruit high-quality facility because the facility are the ones that have the most day-to-day opportunities to influence the lives of these young women. We want to make sure that the student experience, you know everything from enough adequate student housing to extra-curricular activities, the opportunity to engage with the community. All of those things.”

Dr. Gayle is the president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, one of the country’s oldest and largest community foundations.

Under her leadership, the Trust increased its assets from $2.8 billion to $4.7 billion and implemented a strategic plan to narrow the wealth gap between races and ethnic groups.

Gayle served as the president and CEO of CARE, an international humanitarian organization fighting poverty, especially among women and girls, for nearly a decade before joining The Chicago Community Trust.

She also spent 20 years at the Centers for Disease Control, focusing on HIV/AIDS, and at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where she pushed global public health.

“You know, when I was at CARE, one of the things that we really did was shape our work around the premise that if you change the lives of girls and women, you not only change their lives, you change the lives of families, of communities, of nations,” she stated as she expressed that she plans to implement the ideologies of  CARE into her new role as the 11th president of Spelman College.

Dr. Gayle also discussed that she plans to bring awareness of HIV/AIDS to Spelman to push the importance of public health further.

U.S. Leadership In The Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis And Malaria: Hosted By Friends Of The Global Fight Against AIDs, Tuberculosis And Malaria Featuring Helene Gayle And Barbara Bush

Photo by: Jemal Countess / Getty

“HIV is an issue for our community broadly, including through heterosexual transmission to women. The highest cases of HIV are among of gay men of color,” she said.

She added, “women of color, particularly African-American women, are disproportionately impacted among the cases that are spread through heterosexual transmission. And so, I think that HIV clearly an important issue but more broadly looking at the health disparities that African-American women face.”

Dr. Gayle also explained that other health issues affect African-American women that need to be addressed to help discuss how African-American women can take better care of themselves.

Mental health is a topic that Dr. Gayle wants to tackle at Spelman College as well.

The topic of mental health has been pushed to the forefront of many colleges following the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown.

“One of the things coming out of COVID, we recognize there are different ways in which we can bring health service to people. Telemedicine, tele-help, tele-counseling, all those things I think we learn that health and healthcare doesn’t always mean someone having to leave one location to another. Thinking creatively about what are the different ways in which we can make sure that health services, including mental health, are available.”

Building on the generosity of those who donate to Spelman College, Dr. Gayle also plans as the new president to build and expand on the institution’s success with fundraising.

“I think there’s a wonderful tradition of people being very generous to Spelman. And I really want to build on that ability that already exists and to amplify that,” she said. “I had the opportunity in the different roles I played to be able to raise resources, and I think we got something that is worth investing in.”

Women's Conference 2007

Photo by: Steve Jennings / Getty

Dr. Gayle has her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Barnard College. She received her master’s degree in public health from John Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health and her doctorate’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Along with her educational background, Dr. Gayle is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

She has the support of Spelman College facility members such as Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president emerita of Spelman, and a Spelman Trustee, Kaye Foster. Dr. Robert T. Palmer, a Howard University associate professor of educational leadership and department chair, has sung Dr. Gayle’s praises.

Congratulations, Dr. Gayle, on the outstanding accomplishment! We are excited to see your success at Spelman College.

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