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					“There is no
yardstick that exists
that would be
accurate for
me to measure how
this place
has enabled me
to grin. I owe
a great deal to
the Morehouse
experiences.”
–Dr. Anne W. Watts




W of
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MOREHOUSE MAGAZINE   46   S U M M E R   2 0 0 7
                                                                                                                                      feature


By Kai Jackson Issa                                  scholarships, including the Rhodes.
                                                          Watts credits former Morehouse
                                                     faculty members Anna Harvin Grant and



F
            rom the founding of Morehouse
            to today, countless women have           Addie Mitchell as key mentors in her
            distinguished themselves within          development as a leader. “Both were role
            all areas of the College—as              models for me. I saw them as women who
students, faculty, staff and administrators.         could clearly define excellence and who
     A little known fact is that a few women         held their students to high standards.”
were among the first students ever admitted               Grant mentored generations of
to Morehouse. While the college officially           Morehouse students who went on to
stopped admitting women in 1870, at least            distinguished careers in the social sciences.
26 completed all of their coursework at              An internationally recognized scholar on
Morehouse and were awarded the bachelor              black family life, she was director of the
                                                                                                     First Lady Shirley Massey
degree from the College between 1929 and             Black Family Institute and chair of the
1936.                                                sociology department—the College’s first
     “When I came to Morehouse in 1967,              female to chair an academic department.         Trustees. “We need to let our students
there were very few women here in                    Grant can be counted among the most             know that women can hold their own. It
leadership roles, “ says Anne W. Watts,              distinguished educators in the College’s        reminds them that we are a great part of the
associate vice president for Academic                history, male or female.                        wholeness of the universe.”
Affairs. “It was a male-dominated                         Mitchell directed the College’s reading         Stephens also is a living legend at
environment.” Watts rose from English                program for several decades beginning in        Morehouse. She has mentored countless
professor to the institution’s first female          1954 and was an influential voice for the       Morehouse students, challenging them to
class dean. In 1996, she was appointed one           entire Morehouse faculty until her              rise to the level of excellence in language.
of the college’s chief academic officers.            retirement in the early 1990s. Sheryl Allen     One of her most well-known students was
     “There is no yardstick that exists that         was the first female professor in the           filmmaker Shelton “Spike” Lee ‘79.
would be accurate for me to measure how              Division of Business and Economics to                “She saw that I had some talent and
this place has enabled me to grow. I owe a           receive tenure. Sociology professor and         just stayed on me,” Lee once remarked.
great deal to the Morehouse experience,”             noted scholar Ida Mukenge, one of the first     “She would mark my papers in red ink and
says Watts.                                          females to hold a leadership position in the    at times it looked as if someone had slit
     Watts is a Morehouse legend, known              College’s academic administration, remains      their wrists on them.”
for her singular expertise in training               an influential member of the faculty today.          The number of women employed as
Morehouse students in oratory, evidenced                  “Women need to make their presence         full-time faculty has risen substantially in
each year at the annual “A Candle in the             known here,” says Delores Stephens, an          the last 40 years, from 13 in 1966 to 58 out
Dark” gala. It is by way of Watts that many          English professor who has served the            of a total of one 173 in 2006.
top tier students receive “the nod” and              institution since 1964, including as the             Morehouse’s distinguished leaders
undergo rigorous preparation to compete in           English department’s first female chair and     also include an impressive roster of first
some the world’s leading academic                    as a faculty representative on the Board of     ladies who were instrumental in shaping the




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

                                                                                                              S U M M E R   2 0 0 7   47   MOREHOUSE MAGAZINE
Sheryl Allen, Business and Economic Program                            Adrienne Harris, Chief of Staff in the Massey Administration

College. Lugenia Burns Hope, wife of the                                                             have amenities and neighborhood
College’s fourth president, John Hope, was         “We need to let our                               committees that weren’t here before.
a trained social worker and a tireless activist                                                      Davidson House has helped to transform
who encouraged Morehouse students to               students know that                                this community.”
work to improve the deplorable conditions                                                                 There are an impressive number of
under which many black residents of                women can hold their                              women now occupying positions in the
Atlanta lived in the 1920s and 1930s. She                                                            College’s administrative cabinet.
founded the Neighborhood Union, which              own. It reminds them                                   “When I came here twenty-nine years
became a national model for urban                                                                    ago, you did not see many women in
communities, and was active in civic               that we are a great                               administrative leadership,” says Phyllis
groups throughout the city, all the while                                                            Bentley, executive assistant to the provost.
supporting President Hope in the promotion         part of the wholeness                             “Now, women are receiving much more
and development of Morehouse into a                                                                  recognition.”
world-class institution.                           of the universe.”                                      Karen Miller, general counsel and vice
     Hope also helped to found the                                                                   president for Administrative Services, is the
Morehouse Auxiliary, a primarily women’s                                                             second woman to hold a vice president
organization that remains an important                                                               position at the College. In her position,
fundraising and student-support vehicle for       and as in-house counsel for the College.           Miller directs the College’s strategic
the College.                                      Under Mrs. Gloster’s leadership, the College       initiatives and oversees much of the
     Two first ladies also held positions at      successfully raised its endowment, including       services provided by the College.
the College. Beulah Gloster, the first wife       $5 million for the Martin Luther King Jr.               She points to Willis “Butch” Sheftall
of President Hugh Gloster, held a doctorate       International Chapel.                              ‘64, the College’s interim vice president for
in English literature and directed the                 Shirley Massey, counted her role in the       Academic Affairs, and President Massey as
Reading Center for several years before her       building of Davidson House as her most             key mentors.
untimely illness and death. Mrs. Yvonne           important contribution to the College.                  “There are many people on campus
King Gloster, President Gloster’s second               “It’s a showcase piece for Morehouse,         who are open to mentoring and you have to
wife, was an attorney who served as Dr.           and its being here has helped change the           seek it out,” she says. “I don’t feel like I had
Gloster’s executive assistant for several years   entire neighborhood,” she said, “ We now           any issues here based on my being a

MOREHOUSE MAGAZINE   48   S U M M E R   2 0 0 7
Delores Stephens, English professor                               Karen Miller, vice president for Administrative Services and General Counsel


woman. It’s really about identifying a                                                             served as the unofficial chief hostess for the
desire to hold a leadership position and
                                                “Every woman who                                   College. An invitation by LeMar to “come
putting the focus necessary to achieve it. “                                                       out and pour” punch at a College social
     “Leadership is about showing up and
                                                works at Morehouse is                              event meant that a student was to be
getting the job done and once you do that,                                                         properly attired and observe the impeccable
you’re in,” says Adrienne Harris, President     influential, because in                            manners befitting a Morehouse man.
Massey’s chief of staff and among the most                                                              This tradition of scrutiny continues with
influential leaders on campus. Harris’          terms of numbers, we are                           Georgia Rolax, the College’s switchboard
influence is felt in all areas of the College                                                      operator. Practically every Morehouse
because all of her communications work          everywhere. Every aspect                           student has had occasion to pass by “Ms.
advances President Massey’s voice and                                                              Georgia’s” station on the ground floor of
vision for the College.                         of the College benefits                            Gloster Hall. “I try to be a leader to our
     Harris joined Morehouse in 1995 as                                                            young men. I try to set an example by
director of publications and was promoted       from the contributions of                          teaching them to be courteous and kind,”
several times within just a few years.                                                             says Rolax. “I tell them to stay off their cell
“Morehouse is a man’s world, but Walter         women.”                                            phones. I don’t allow that in here.”
Massey is a man who honors individuals’                                                                 As students, faculty, staff and
contributions regardless of gender,” says                                                          administrators, the women of Morehouse,
Harris. “The more I showed I could do, the      assistant to the business manager, where           past and present, are part of a sturdy bridge
more opportunities I have been given.”          she was a key player in the financial              that will lead the College to higher levels of
     For every woman in high profile            workings of the College. She is also               excellence and distinction.
positions at the College, there are many        credited with typing Martin Luther King                 Perhaps Adrienne Harris says it best:
women, past and present, whose “behind          Jr.’s entire doctoral dissertation.                “Every woman who works at Morehouse
the scenes” roles have kept the institution           Women have played a vital role in            is influential, because in terms of
running.                                        ensuring Morehouse students observe                numbers, we are everywhere. Every
     Agnes Watson served Morehouse for          proper civility and decorum. Flora LeMar,          aspect of the College benefits from the
several decades, first as President             the legendary “postmistress” of Morehouse          contributions of women.” ■
Benjamin E. Mays’ secretary and then as         during the Mays and Gloster administration,

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