Rolling Out

Why Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum deserves the Spelman College president emerita designation

Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum (Photo Credit: Spelman College)
Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum (Photo Credit: Spelman College)

Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum doesn’t settle for low hanging fruit. In 2009, when she announced Spelman College’s $150M capital campaign, a lofty goal for those economic times, this writer thought “how ambitious.”

“If you want to invest in the future of this country, indeed the world, you have to invest in the human capital,” she told rolling out. For those who are familiar with Spelman, one of the oldest Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the U.S., you’re aware that over the past 12 years, Tatum has been steadfast in her commitment to educate gifted women, without interruption.

In 2012, rolling out and the Steed Society named Tatum one of its “25 Most Influential Women in Atlanta,” for her dedication to academic excellence among the more than 2,100 students under her tutelage who hail from 41 states and 15 foreign countries.

Having served as president of Spelman College since 2002, Tatum retires this June.
Spelman College’s Board of Trustees has agreed to honor her with the title of president emerita once she steps down. It’s a designation that is arguably matter of course.

Here’s why.

In 2014, Spelman ranked number 65 on U.S. News and World Report’s annual list of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges, the second highest ranked HBCU. Morehouse College is first.

The aforementioned 10-year fundraising campaign exceeded the $150 million goal and raised $157.8 million, with contributions from 71 percent of alumnae.

When Tatum was first appointed president, only 13 percent of alumnae donated to the school annually. That number has increased to 41 percent.

In 2013, Tatum was a recipient of the Carnegie Academic Leadership Award. She was the first president of any historically black college or university to win the award, which is accompanied by a $500,000 check to be used at the discretion of the honoree to further his or her academic priorities.

Since her appointment in 2002, Spelman is now ranked among the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the nation and is one of the most selective women’s colleges in the United States.

In 2008, an anonymous donor generously gave a $17 million gift to establish the Gordon-Zeto Endowed Fund for International Initiatives, creating more opportunities for faculty and student travel and increased funding for international students.

In 2005 Dr. Tatum was awarded the prestigious Brock International Prize in Education for her innovative leadership in the field.

The author of Can We Talk About Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation (2007) and Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Other Conversations about Race (1997) as well as Assimilation Blues: Black Families in a White Community (1987), Dr. Tatum is recognized as a race and identity expert.

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