Spelman College formally inaugurated Dr. Helene D. Gayle as its 11th president during a ceremony on April 28 at the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel.

On April 28, Spelman College officially inaugurated their 11th president, Dr. Helene Gayle. Photo by Isaiah Singleton/The Atlanta Voice

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 succeeds former President Emerita Mary Schmidt Campbell, who served from 2015 – 2022.

Gayle also 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.

For almost a decade, Gayle 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.

“In this society for women, especially Black women, it’s still made to believe that we should shrink and hide who we are. Spelman teaches you to believe you actually belong in any room you walk into,” Gayle said.

One student, Gayle said, told her being at Spelman was “like her Wakanda experience”.

“(It’s) a grounding feeling and sense of confidence that’s impossible to shake. She said, ‘I believe Spelman has the armor that I need to shield me in any experience,” Gayle said.

Gayle also said Spelman continues to offer the “premium liberal arts education that develops learners who can think across disciplines to find answers to today’s complex challenges.”

“We value our Christian roots, while embracing a full range of faith traditions, believers, and non-believers. We expanded our appreciation of our sisterhood to embrace a broader understanding of gender and gender identity,” she said. “While we are historically Black and committed to the education of women of African descent, our doors are open to any woman who want to educationally experience grounded in the understanding of Black history and Black culture.”

She said this kind of adaptability and intentionality has rooted Spelman in their educational mission, but also in the world beyond their doors.

“For every major social, political, or economical challenge we have faced, Spelman has been there, and our voice has mattered. We continue to break records and score high on all the national rankings,” she said.

Inauguration events began on Thursday, April 27 and will conclude on Sunday, April 30. The line-up of events includes an academic symposium, investiture ceremony, campus celebration, day of service and an interfaith service at Spelman’s historic Sisters Chapel.