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New book offers insight on importance of queer leadership in higher education

University News | 08.30.22

Prior to this century, there were few known gay or lesbian presidents in North American higher education.

There’s Mary Emma Wooley, president of Mount Holyoke College from 1901-37, who was documented because her life on campus with her partner, Jeanette Marks, is described in their love letters. There’s Jacquelyn A. Mattfeld, president of Barnard College from 1976-80, who rarely receives recognition for braving sexism, heterosexism, and homophobia during her presidency. And there’s Theodora J. Kalikow, president of the University of Maine Farmington from 1994-2012, who bridges the few examples to the era of contributors to the book “LGBTQ Leadership in Higher Education.”

Edited by Adler University President Raymond Crossman, Ph.D., 15 currently serving or retired LGBTQ presidents and chancellors in higher education explain why, to whom, and how LGBTQ leadership matters.

“Is being queer a superpower for us as leaders, something we manage as part of our intersectional identities, or is it just another attribute of accomplished leaders?” Dr. Crossman wrote in the book’s introduction. “Across our essays, we attempt to address why LGBTQ leadership matters at this moment, and more broadly, why diversity, inclusion, and equity in leadership are important to meet today’s challenges for higher education and human rights.”

Writing from the perspective of their lived and specific experiences as LGBTQ presidents, the contributors consider whether there is something distinctive about LGBTQ leadership. They also attempt to draw insights and principles from their personal stories.

In “LGBTQ Leadership in Higher Education,” the essays range across 12 topics, including intersectionality, mentorship, feminism, self-care, coming out, heteronormativity, and partners and spouses. The book — the first on this topic — simultaneously archives a moment that is the forerunner to new, enormous, and necessary evolutions in leadership practice.

“Every writer in this collection appreciates the rare privilege of reflecting on leadership,” Dr. Crossman wrote. “I’m most grateful to the authors of this volume for stepping out of line — before, during, and after their installations — to ensure that LGBTQ and diverse leadership matters for our campuses and the world.”

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