Women Rock Chicago(land) Higher Education

I wonder when it will be the case that we no longer have to celebrate when female presidents are named. Recently, UNC named Dartmouth’s interim president as the new UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor. (For those less acronym or basketball savvy, UNC= University of North Carolina, aka the Tarheels.)

Yes, this is a big deal. And yes, the headlines did note that she is a first. Here’s what a recent article said:

“Carol Folt, the interim president of Dartmouth College, will be the next chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, three sources close to the search said.

Folt, 61, would be the first woman to lead the campus in Chapel Hill, where the 29,000-member student body is 58 percent female.”

As a side note, for those who love the Duke/UNC rivalry: yes, my alma mater, Duke, got there first.

Having said that, yes, another first woman. In my deepest past, a college president I know wanted to stop using the notion of firsts for women as he thought we were done with firsts. Not so much. Not so much at all.

When I was named, the word first was used. And in part it had to do with being the first (non-interim) female president since Shimer’s founders. Women continue to be underrepresented in the top spots at colleges and universities. And, this despite the hoopla around  Drew Faust Gilpin (Harvard’s president),  for example.

What does this have to do with Chicago?

Well, for one thing, the University of Chicago was ahead of the pack, lo those many years ago, and had a female president, Hannah Gray. (As a side note, she was a recipient of the aforementioned award; click here for information).

How about now? Here are (some, perhaps all) of the female college and university presidents (and chancellors)  in Chicago(land):

City Colleges of Chicago,  Cheryl L. Hyman, Chancellor

Dominican University, Donna M. Carroll, President

Kennedy-King College, Joyce C. Ester, President

MacCormac College, Marnelle Alexis, President

National Louis University, Nivine Megahed, President

Saint Xavier University, Christine Wiseman, President

Shimer College, Susan Henking, President

Triton College, Patricia Granados, President

And no, this is not 50% of the colleges and universities in Chicago(land). Also, I cannot guarantee I caught everyone — do let us know if there are more!

If you think this is all unimportant, perhaps, click here — especially if you think women colleges presidents have it better than corporate leaders. (Or think about the many who have been targets of criticism not because of their leadership but because of their gender.)


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    Elaine P. Maimon, President of Governors State University. I still think that the fact that Shimer's president chaired the IBHE subcommittee that recommended Governors State's original governance arrangement back in the sixties hints at a deeper cosmic connection.

  • Chicago State does not currently have a female president, but we have had several. In 1905 when we were the Chicago Normal School, Dr. Ella Flagg Young was the principal of the school



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    Shimerprez is the 14th president of Shimer College at 35th and State. She also blogs at the Huffington Post and at a Shimer Blog called Evocations which can be found on line at blog.shimer.edu/provocations/. She is a University of Chicago Ph.D. who works on religion, the social sciences, gender and sexuality. She reads murder mysteries, is fascinated by the world of food, and also loves the Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York.

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