Tuskegee University will formally inaugurate its first female president, Lily McNair, one week after International Women’s Day. McNair is the historically black university’s eighth president since its founding in 1881.
McNair, who has been serving as president since July, draws inspiration from Booker T. Washington, the university’s founder and first president.
“I think about Booker T. Washington a great deal,” McNair said. “The more I learn about him, the more I appreciate his vision, not just for the university and its future, but for societal matters like education and health of all people. Dr. Washington set a bar that I strive each day to uphold as I challenge myself to make this historic and revered university even greater and grander than he ever conceived.”
A 2017 survey by the American Council of Education found that only 30 percent of the nation’s university presidents are women, and only 5 percent of university presidents are women of color. Because of this, the university plans to highlight the impact of female leaders throughout the ceremony and additional related events.
The inauguration ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. on March 15 in the university’s Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James Arena. During the ceremony, McNair will receive the university’s presidential medallion and give an address outlining her vision for the university’s future.
On Saturday, March 16, McNair will lead an Inaugural Symposia at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. She will be hosting three panels on higher education, business and faith featuring several African American female leaders.
The week’s celebrations will also include a black-tie fundraising gala at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel and Spa on the night of March 16 and student events on campus, specifically a day of service with locally based non-profit Let’s Rebuild Tuskegee on March 10 and a semi-formal gala where students will have the opportunity to meet with McNair on March 13.
In honor of McNair’s inauguration, the university has also launched a $1 million “Campaign for Leadership and Excellence” fundraising effort that, along with the proceeds from the black-tie fundraising gala, will provide scholarships for students.
“Ushering in a new era of leadership and excellence begins with ensuring every student who desires a quality education has access to one,” McNair noted. “We hope our alumni, friends and others who value the transformational power of education will invest in current and future generations of Tuskegee students.”