University of Kansas Names Black Woman Leader

Published June 1, 2009

For the first time, the University of Kansas has appointed a woman and an African American as chancellor.

“It's about time,” Bernadette Gray-Little said when asked how she felt being the first leader of the system who is not White and male.

Gray-Little, who was among three finalists as late as Friday, has served as executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When she entered the Kansas Board of Regents meeting on Friday, she was greeted with a standing ovation. “We are thrilled with the choice,” regents Chairwoman Donna Shank said. “We are always thankful when we get to hire women and minorities. In this case, we got lucky all the way around. This is the right person, and she happens to be an African-American woman.”

Gray-Little’s credentials speak for themselves: Not only does she come from a leadership position at one of the top five research institutions in the nation, but she listed as her goals for Kansas the improvement of the university’s graduation rate, the increase in research funding and the continuance of the university’s pursuit of the National Cancer Institute designation and launching a fundraising campaign to help offset a decline in state funding.

She assumes her new role as chancellor on Aug. 15 when she replaces Robert Hemenway, who leaves at the end of June for a year’s sabbatical before returning to the University of Kansas to teach.

“I am delighted to be here and look forward to getting to meet with students, faculty and staff and helping the University of Kansas get where it wants to go,” said Gray-Little, 65. “I hope this is a great day for KU. It is a wonderful day for me.”

Written by BET.com Staff

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