Emerging leaders: 4 colleges hire their first Black or female—or both—president

The number of full-time enrolled undergraduate students for Mount Holyoke, Mount Union and St. Norbert College all fall somewhere around 2,000. NYU's numbers, on the other hand, is 10 times that at 25,854, according to Niche.

These colleges may all be well over a hundred years old, but there is still a first time for everything: Mount Holyoke (Mass.), Mount Union (Ohio), St. Norbert College (Wis.) and NYU have all recently elected a Black or female president—or both—for the first time in their schools’ histories.

The number of full-time enrolled undergraduate students for Mount Holyoke, Mount Union and St. Norbert College all fall somewhere around 2,000. NYU’s numbers, on the other hand, are 10 times that at 25,854, according to Niche.

Linda G. Mills: NYU

For the past six months, NYU’s presidential search committee assessed over 100 candidates, but Linda G. Mills’ extensive involvement with the university since 1999 put her at the forefront of the race. On Feb. 15, the Board of Trustees announced their unanimous selection.

The president-designate was NYU’s Vice Chancellor and Senior Vice Provost for Global Programs and University Life for the past decade and is a lifetime member of the school’s senior leadership team.

“Throughout her long tenure at NYU, Linda Mills has demonstrated a profound commitment to the University,” said Evan Chesler, Chair-Designate of the Board of Trustees and Vice-Chair of the Presidential Search Committee in a statement. “She has a deep familiarity both with NYU’s great strengths and with those areas that need additional attention, support and investment for NYU to achieve the next level of excellence.

As a chaired professor and licensed professional in social work, her academic accomplishments in the field are extensive, focusing on bias, trauma and domestic violence. She has published articles in Harvard Law Review and Cornell Law Review, among others. Mills received her Ph.D. in health policy in 1994 from Brandeis University.

Her presidency will officially begin July 1.

Danielle Ren Holley: Mount Holyoke College

Before being reined as the 20th president of Mount Holyoke College, she was busy revitalizing Howard University’s school of law as dean and professor.

President-designate Danielle Ren Holley (Photo: Mount Holyoke College website)

She was the perfect person to do it, too. The president-elect currently serves as co-chair of the Board of Directors of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and sits on the board of the Law School Admissions Council. She also earned awards with the Association of American Law Schools and the National Bar Association, to name a few honors.

“I admire so many things about Danielle Holley,” said Christina Paxson, President of Brown University, in a school statement. “She understands the power of a liberal arts education to create the visionary leaders the world sorely needs. She is deeply committed to advancing equity and justice. She has excellent academic judgment. She is a natural collaborator and a great listener. For these and numerous other reasons, Danielle is a marvelous choice to be Mount Holyoke’s 20th president.”

She is the first Black female president in the school’s 186-year history.

More from UB: Thanks to her “unshakable confidence,” Columbia University names its first female president

Laurie Joyner: St. Norbert College

This isn’t Laurie Joyner’s first rodeo as a college president. Since 2017, she’s been at the helm of St. Xavier University in Chicago and, before that, Wittenburg University in Ohio.

Based in large part on her extensive involvement and leadership in Catholic colleges, the Association of Catholic Colleges & Universities recently elected Joyner to their board.

Although Joyner’s presidency doesn’t take effect until July, that hasn’t stopped her from discussing her action plan at the Catholic liberal arts college, where she will be focusing on shared governance issues, enrollment numbers and philanthropy.

“It’s really important to have our faculty and staff and administrations and board of trustees on the same page about a shared vision for the future,” she said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I’ll be listening and looking at the strategic planning priorities and will likely end up tweaking those a bit.”

She will be the first woman to lead the school in its 125-year history.

Greg King: Mount Union College

Over the past 30 years, Greg King has been a jack of all trades at Mount Union. From enrollment services to student affairs, there seemed to be nothing that the now-president-designate couldn’t do.

President-designate Gregory L. King (Photo: Mount Union website)

“Greg has extensive experience in the facets of running a university,” said Matt Darrah, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees. “His leadership experience, institutional knowledge, meaningful relationships, and immense passion for Mount Union uniquely qualify him for this role, which will provide him with an opportunity to further impact the future of his alma mater.”

His most notable success—and what probably won the minds of the Board of Trustees—is his tenure as Mount Union’s vice president of advancement. Since 2008, he has raised the school’s endowment past $150 million through several campaigns.

Now, he is the first Black president in the school’s 177-year history.


Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and Florida Gator alumnus. A graduate in journalism and communications, his beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene, and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador, and Brazil.

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