Smith Tapped as First African-American to Lead Swarthmore College

By Watson, Jamal Eric | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, March 12, 2015 | Go to article overview

Smith Tapped as First African-American to Lead Swarthmore College


Watson, Jamal Eric, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


The appointment of Dr. Valerie Smith as the 15th president of Swarthmore College is being hailed by scholars as a major breakthrough for African-American women in the academy.

Last month, Smith--a scholar of African-American literature and culture and dean of the college at Princeton University--received a unanimous vote from the school's Board of Managers to lead the 1,500-student liberal arts school located in a suburb of Philadelphia. She will assume the post on July 1.

Smith will be the college's first African-American president.

"Valerie Smith is a respected scholar and a wise, effective leader with impressive accomplishments that closely align with Swarthmore's values: access and affordability, dynamic undergraduate learning opportunities, and educating students to be leaders who value the common good," said Giles Kemp, the chair of Swarthmore's Board of Managers.

"Her colleagues consistently praise her judgment, integrity, and commitment to making a liberal arts education accessible to all students."

Smith's colleagues at Princeton commended her research and administrative skills and said that, as founding director of the Center for African American Studies from 2006 to 2009, she was instrumental in its expansion.

"Although we are sad to see Professor Smith leave Princeton, this is an extraordinary opportunity for her and Swarthmore," said Dr. Eddie S. Glaude, the William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies and chair of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton.

"Her appointment, much like that of Dr. Ruth Simmons at Smith and Brown, has historic significance. The landscape of higher education is changing daily, and we now have a leading light at the helm of one of the most important liberal arts colleges in the country. …

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