Wednesday, August 4 , 2021
by Mark Johnson
Davidson College President Carol Quillen informed the college’s Board of Trustees today that the 2021-2022 school year will be her last as president.
Quillen will complete eleven years of guiding historic and uplifting changes at the liberal arts college. The student body grew more diverse, socioeconomically and racially. The endowment topped $1 billion. Applications reached record numbers. The Jay Hurt Hub for Innovation and Entrepreneurship opened, extending campus into downtown Davidson and forging partnerships in the local business community. And the physical campus gained new public art and the E. Craig Wall Jr. center’s progressive design that encourages work across the physical and social sciences.
“Carol will leave Davidson stronger than when she arrived,” said Alison Hall Mauzé, chair of the Board of Trustees. “She embraced Davidson’s mission and, then, challenged and guided us to figure out how we live out that purpose now and in the future. She led the college in building up our financial foundation, exploring and being accountable for our past and equipping and empowering our graduates to solve problems bigger than themselves. She has led Davidson with clarity, humanity and purpose. The Board of Trustees is most grateful for Carol’s exceptional leadership and service to Davidson through historic times.”
Mauzé said that former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, a 1993 graduate of Davidson and former Charlotte mayor, will lead the search committee for the college’s next president.
During Quillen’s decade as president, Davidson stacked up top-tier status in undergraduate research and tied for second in the nation for the NCAA’s graduation success rate of athletes. The college moved into, and succeeded in, the more challenging Atlantic 10 athletic conference. Alums participated in supporting the college at a rate behind only a handful of household-name institutions – all under a president who was the first woman in that role and the first non-alum in more than half-a-century.
Quillen established Davidson’s Commission on Race & Slavery, which outlined a path for examining the college’s history with respect to race and enslaved persons. Following their recommendations, she offered an unqualified public apology for the college’s role in perpetuating slavery, Jim Crow laws and policies that excluded people based on race. Davidson now is embarked on multiple initiatives in research, scholarship, commemoration and creating and sustaining an equitable campus environment.
“Carol possesses the most valuable commodity in higher education today: courage,” said Margaret Spellings, who served as Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush. “She doesn’t hesitate to challenge the status quo that we know isn’t working, and she does it in a way that helps those in the debate to look at an issue differently rather than grow defensive.”
Quillen’s influence extends to national venues for higher education, including election by her peers to a leadership role in the American Council on Education. She is a founding member of the American Talent Initiative, aimed at increasing the number of low income students in colleges and universities with high graduation rates. She routinely is invited to speak at leadership venues that cross higher education and the broader economy, such as the Milken and Aspen institutes.
President Obama appointed her to his Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, and, in 2019, Princeton University awarded her the James Madison Medal, which goes to an alum of the university’s graduate schools for their distinguished career and public service.
“Davidson College has become an even more remarkable institution because of Carol’s vision, will and skill,” said Aspen Institute President Dan Porterfield, who is the former president of Franklin & Marshall College. “She’s one of the single most influential leaders in American higher education — and one of the best and most genuine people I’ve ever worked with.”
Mauzé said the trustees anticipate completing the presidential search by next spring.