Maria Harper-Marinick – First Woman Chancellor of Maricopa Community College

MARIA HARPER-MARINICK        Maria Harper-Marinick was recently appointed chancellor of Maricopa Community College, the First Woman to hold that position. She is also the first Latina higher-education chancellor in Arizona.

        Her background prepared her extensively for the position. She had served as Executive Vice President since 2010, overseeing much of the university’s operations. Her three primary focuses were on planning, student support and improving the stature and recognition of the college. Her focus was local, national, and international and she served in multiple organizations to achieve that agenda.

        A native of the Dominican Republic, Harper-Marinick came to Arizona as a Fulbright Scholar in 1982. Both her doctorate and master’s degrees are from Arizona State University. Even before she became Executive Vice President, Harper-Marinick was chosen the Maricopa Community College’s District Office Woman of Distinction, one of many awards and recognition for her work.

        Since Hispanics constitute almost a third of the population of Arizona and Maricopa County, her selection feels, to this outsider, like a reasonable choice. The appointment, however, was not without controversy. It seems some board members argued that the process was flawed since someone from inside was hired.

        When I worked at the University of California back in the 1970’s, higher education institutions revamped their hiring process to assure a “fair” system. All positions had to be announced publicly and, after a thorough search, the “best-qualified” candidate would be hired, without regard to gender or ethnic background. While this sounded equitable, it had the effect of stifling advancement for women within their own institutions, as there was almost always a man from outside the organization who had already served in the advertised position at another institution, making him the best qualified for the position.

        Given my experience, I am not surprised that this debate persists, but I am excited to see a woman promoted from within. It is time for women to be placed in positions for which they have demonstrated preparation, as has Maria Harper-Marinick.


Katharine Drexel, Saint

katherine drexelA descendant of the founders of Drexel University in Philadelphia, Katharine Drexel was born into a philanthropic family. At a private audience with Pope Leo XIII, Katharine asked the Pope to send missionaries to the Native Americans whose plight had come to her attention during travels to the Western United States. The Pope’s answer was to suggest that Katharine become a missionary herself. She followed that call and used her own fortune to establish 50 missions for Native Americans in 16 states.

Katharine Drexel then turned her attention to blacks living under Jim Crow laws. In spite of threats from the Klan and other segregationists, she founded a secondary school for blacks, the first institution of its kind in the United States. Eventually she established schools for blacks in 13 states and her first secondary became Xavier University.

Today a prep school in New Orleans bears her name. I took this photo of the Katharine Drexel Preparatory School marching band during Mardi Gras last year.


Judith Rodin – Ivy League President

JUDITH RODINJudith Rodin was on the forefront of making education accessible to women. When she was a student at the University of Pennsylvania’s College for Women in the 1960’s, she was president of Penn’s Women’s Student Government. She led the movement to merge with the Men’s Student Government. From this merger a Student Committee on Undergraduate Education was formed in preparation for co-education at the College of Arts and Sciences. By the time Judith Rodin became President of the University of Pennsylvania in 1994, The First Woman To. . .be president of an ivy league university, there was no longer a College for Women at Penn.

After her graduation Rodin taught at New York University and then became a professor at Yale University. She served as head of the psychology department, then as Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and finally as Provost. As president of Penn, she focused on developing the community as well as the university, and formed alliances between the schools and businesses. During her tenure both the endowment and fundraising tripled and research funds doubled. Expansion of buildings and programs marked her era.

She has been on Forbes Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women list as well as the National Association of Corporate Directors’ 100. She is committed to high standards of governance by boards and believes that investing should not be confined to the wealthy.

She also believes that investing should contribute to the welfare of the world. In her book The Power of Impact Investing she promotes considering the impact of investments as well as their financial returns.

Living her values, she participants in global forums and efforts. After Superstorm Sandy in 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asked her to co-chair a commission on long-term resilience.

Not content with one first, Judith Rodin was also The First Woman To. . .become president of the Rockefeller Foundation. Her influence extends throughout the world in education, science and development.




Christa McAuliffe – Teacher, Astronaut

Christa McAuliffe’s birthday was September 2nd. It seems appropriate to include her here as the school year begins.

CHRISTA MCAULIFFEChrista McAuliffe’s First Woman To. . .achievement was made possible by President Ronald Reagan when he decided that the first civilian in space should be a teacher. As he put it, they are “America’s finest.” The application was requested by 45,000 teachers, but only 11,000 completed the lengthy form. From that group the number was reduced to ten who then trained and competed for the slot.

Christa McAuliffe’s proposal for her program in space was not the most ambitious among the applicants. It was, in fact, rather simple. She would keep a journal of her adventure and share it. While preparing a class for her high school students on the American Woman, she was inspired by the personal journals of women who pioneered the West. She believed that, as a pioneer in space, she should preserve this tradition. She was convinced that social history is enriched by “diaries, travel accounts and personal letters.” According to her mother, Christa believed that “history wasn’t made by presidents and kings and politicians and wars, that it was common man that really had the big part of history.” Just as she encouraged her students to interview their parents and grandparents about their lives, she wanted to preserve her own life for her children.

Field trips and speakers from outside were always part of her classes and she saw the journey into space as the ultimate field trip. On January 28, 1986, she was launched into space. McAuliffe had always believed in dreams. She was convinced that even a C student could become a poet. Her poem was cut short that day when the shuttle exploded 73 seconds into the launch.

Stunned students, watching on televisions in their classrooms and auditoriums across the country, learned a different lesson than the one she had wanted to teach that day. Their teachers must have struggled with the words to comfort and explain, but then teachers have always been skilled at helping children through difficulties. Not all of them are awarded with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, as was Christa McAuliffe, but many of them are as courageous.

Afterword: Barbara Morgan, Christa McAuliffe’s backup for the space ride on Challenger, stayed with the space program and flew to the International Space Station aboard Endeavour in 2007.


In spite of the lengthy commercials, this video is worth the time:


Donna Shalala – Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison

In every community, whether large of small, there are people who lead in their community in easy and difficult times. [Donna Shalala]

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 4.56.43 PM        Donna Shalala was the first woman to head a Big Ten school, but she may be better known for holding a cabinet position. Shalala was the longest serving U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).

After earning a bachelor’s degree in history, Donna Shalala spent two years in the Peace Corps. She says she wanted to “save the world,” a sentiment many in her generation can recognize. She also wanted to “see the world.” The portion of the world she saw was a mud village in Iran where she helped build an agricultural college.

She returned to the United States to earn her Master’s and doctorate degrees from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. She remained in academics, teaching and later serving as President of Hunter College. She then served as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, all while engaging in public service.

In 1993 Bill Clinton tapped her to serve as Secretary of HHS. She was the first Arab-American to serve in a Cabinet position. During her tenure she managed reform of welfare programs, improved the FDA’s approval process, and improved food safety systems. For children, she provided health insurance to millions, expanded Head Start and improved child immunization rates. For women, she established shelters and created mortgage credits. For all, she expanded AIDS research and supported anti-discrimination legislation. The Washington Post described her as “one of the most successful government managers of modern times.”

President George W. Bush also recognized her expertise and selected Shalala for the Commission on Care for Returning Wounded Warriors, asking her to co-chair the panel with Senator Bob Dole. President Bush awarded her the Medal of Freedom.

Now President of the University of Miami, she draws on her experience as HHS Secretary and teaches a course on the American healthcare system each spring semester. She has numerous awards and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2011.

Many of us wish we were taller, so that we might engage men eye-to-eye. Donna Shalala, at only five feet tall, shows that a women’s stature need not be an encumbrance.


On-Line Biographies: and

An Interview:


        Is managing well a form of leadership?