Spelman College formally installed Helene D. Gayle, M.D., MPH, as its 11th President at the investiture ceremony held today, April 28, at the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel.
During the ceremony, attended by Spelman’s Board of Trustees, higher education peers, distinguished guests, family and friends, Dr. Gayle was officially bestowed the title of president. The inauguration theme of “Honoring Our Past, Claiming Our Future” paid homage to the great leaders that came before her, as well as her hope and vision for continued success of this storied institution.
During her inaugural address, Dr. Gayle acknowledged and thanked the past five Spelman presidents in attendance, as well as many individuals who have played an important role in her life. During her remarks she reaffirmed her commitment to Spelman and aspirations for the future
“I am here to honor the vision and mission of the founders,” said Dr. Gayle. “I am here to continue the legacy of all the past presidents who made it possible for me to inherit an institution with few problems and many possibilities. I am here for the same reason this institution has always been here: to ensure there is a special place – that there will always be a special place – where a young Black woman with a dream of making the world better will be nurtured and affirmed, educated wholly, and encouraged to be and become her best and authentic self. It is an amazing calling. And I am humbled to accept this mantle of leadership.”
Rosalind Gates Brewer, C’84, chair of the Spelman Board of Trustees and president and CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, presided over the investiture ceremony. Guest speakers included: Mary Schmidt Campbell, 10th president of Spelman College; David A. Thomas, president of Morehouse College; Sian Beilock, president of Barnard College; Charlayne Hunter-Gault, American Civil Rights activist and journalist; and Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of American University.
Dr. Gayle began serving as the 11th president of Spelman College on July 1, 2022, following an extensive national search led by the Board of Trustees. She succeeded President Emerita Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., who served as president from 2015 – 2022.
The four-day line-up of inauguration events began on Thursday, April 27, with an academic symposium, a campus celebration following the investiture on Friday, day of service on Saturday, and will conclude on Sunday with an interfaith service at Spelman’s historic Sisters Chapel, featuring an inauguration sermon by Bishop Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
Dr. Gayle previously served as president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, one of the nation’s oldest and largest community foundations, from October 2017 to June 2022. Under her leadership, the Trust adopted a new strategic focus on closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap in the Chicago region. For almost a decade, she was president and CEO of CARE, a leading international humanitarian organization. A pediatrician and public health physician with expertise in economic development, humanitarian, and health issues, she spent 20 years with the Centers for Disease Control, working primarily on HIV/AIDS. She led the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s programs on HIV/AIDS and other global health issues.
Dr. Gayle serves on public company and nonprofit boards, including The Coca-Cola Company, Organon, Palo Alto Networks, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Brookings Institution, Center for Strategic and International Studies, New America and the ONE Campaign. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, Council on Foreign Relations, American Public Health Association, National Medical Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics.
Dr. Gayle is from Buffalo, N.Y. She earned a B.A. in psychology at Barnard College, an M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.P.H. at Johns Hopkins University. She is a tenured Full Professor in the Department of Environmental and Health Sciences at Spelman College and has received 18 honorary degrees. She also holds faculty appointments at the University of Washington and Emory University.
For more information about the inauguration of Dr. Helene D. Gayle, or to watch the video broadcast, please visit www.spelman.edu/inauguration.