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By Kai Jackson Issa

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rom the founding of Morehouse to today, countless women have distinguished themselves within all areas of the College—as students, faculty, staff and administrators. A little known fact is that a few women were among the first students ever admitted to Morehouse. While the college officially stopped admitting women in 1870, at least 26 completed all of their coursework at Morehouse and were awarded the bachelor degree from the College between 1929 and 1936. “When I came to Morehouse in 1967, there were very few women here in leadership roles, “ says Anne W. Watts, associate vice president for Academic Affairs. “It was a male-dominated environment.” Watts rose from English professor to the institution’s first female class dean. In 1996, she was appointed one of the college’s chief academic officers. “There is no yardstick that exists that would be accurate for me to measure how this place has enabled me to grow. I owe a great deal to the Morehouse experience,” says Watts. Watts is a Morehouse legend, known for her singular expertise in training Morehouse students in oratory, evidenced each year at the annual “A Candle in the Dark” gala. It is by way of Watts that many top tier students receive “the nod” and undergo rigorous preparation to compete in some the world’s leading academic

scholarships, including the Rhodes. Watts credits former Morehouse faculty members Anna Harvin Grant and Addie Mitchell as key mentors in her development as a leader. “Both were role models for me. I saw them as women who could clearly define excellence and who held their students to high standards.” Grant mentored generations of Morehouse students who went on to distinguished careers in the social sciences. An internationally recognized scholar on black family life, she was director of the Black Family Institute and chair of the sociology department—the College’s first female to chair an academic department. Grant can be counted among the most distinguished educators in the College’s history, male or female. Mitchell directed the College’s reading program for several decades beginning in 1954 and was an influential voice for the entire Morehouse faculty until her retirement in the early 1990s. Sheryl Allen was the first female professor in the Division of Business and Economics to receive tenure. Sociology professor and noted scholar Ida Mukenge, one of the first females to hold a leadership position in the College’s academic administration, remains an influential member of the faculty today. “Women need to make their presence known here,” says Delores Stephens, an English professor who has served the institution since 1964, including as the English department’s first female chair and as a faculty representative on the Board of

First Lady Shirley Massey

Trustees. “We need to let our students know that women can hold their own. It reminds them that we are a great part of the wholeness of the universe.” Stephens also is a living legend at Morehouse. She has mentored countless Morehouse students, challenging them to rise to the level of excellence in language. One of her most well-known students was filmmaker Shelton “Spike” Lee ‘79. “She saw that I had some talent and just stayed on me,” Lee once remarked. “She would mark my papers in red ink and at times it looked as if someone had slit their wrists on them.” The number of women employed as full-time faculty has risen substantially in the last 40 years, from 13 in 1966 to 58 out of a total of one 173 in 2006. Morehouse’s distinguished leaders also include an impressive roster of first ladies who were instrumental in shaping the

the ’HOUSE Anne Wimbush Watts, associate vice president for Academic Affairs

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