University of the Sciences has named its first African-American female president.
Dr. Helen F. Giles-Gee will begin her presidency at the university on July 16.
The first female president in the university’s 191-year history, Giles-Gee brings more than 30 years of experience in higher education. She replaces Dr. Philip P. Gerbino, who retired last August, after more than 16 years as president.
The nationally known scholar, educator and administrator has a history of working with faculty, staff, administrators and campus communities to implement strategies that propel institutions to higher levels.
She comes to the university from Keene State College in Keene, N.H.
“When I made the decision to come, it was one that was simple. It was based on the strong, historic reputation that this university has,” Giles-Gee, 61, said as she addressed University of the Sciences administration, faculty, staff and students on Thursday afternoon.
“Through the interview process, I met with individuals at every level who were passionate about this university and spoke about the spirit of community — a spirit of community that I have at Keene State College. There is a community here that wants a vision of success.”
Giles-Gee was one of 55 candidates and four finalists for the position.
She plans to have an open-door policy and encouraged members of the university community to come to her with their concerns.
Giles-Gee said she would serve as the university’s advocate throughout the country and the world and garner for the institution the reputation it deserves.
After seven years in New Hampshire, Giles-Gee is returning to Philadelphia, where she matriculated.
Board Chairman Marvin Samson, who has served as the interim president since September, said he was delighted that the university was able to convince Helen to come back to the Delaware Valley.
“She is a proven leader who understands the need for students and faculty members to be exposed to different disciplines, to appreciate knowledge in a broad context, and to value the benefits of diversity. Helen joins this great institution at a time when science and healthcare are making quantum leaps forward,” Samson said.
“Her demonstrated ability to proactively embrace change, inspire students, faculty staff and alumni, to effectively engage with the community and her wide view of the university’s role in society, as a whole, are of critical importance as we seek to educate the healthcare and scientific leaders of the future.”
State Rep. Jim Roebuck, City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and Mayor Michael Nutter were on hand to welcome Giles-Gee.
“Dr. Giles-Gee is not only making history as the first female and first African-American president of this great school — her résumé is spectacular. Her accomplishments make her more than eminently qualified for this position,” said Nutter.
Since 2005, Giles-Gee served as president of Keene State College. During her tenure at Keene, Giles-Gee led the institution through a major transformation. She spearheaded the development and implantation of a strategic plan that in its first five years surpassed benchmarks for academic excellence. She established the positions of provost and vice president for advancement, initiated a college-wide honors program and oversaw capital improvements and investments. She also led positive initiative in the areas of curriculum, co-curriculum, campus building, advancement, shared governance and diversity.
Giles-Gee is no stranger to being “the first.” She was also the first African American president of Keene State College.
“I do recognize that as the first, I do serve as a role model for women and for African Americans, so I do respect the significance of that,” she said.
“As a result of that I have been called on to inspire and encourage, so I do accept that as part of the role.”
Prior to her arrival at Keene, Giles-Gee was provost at Rowan University, where she managed the College of Business, Communication, Education, Engineering, Fine and Performing Arts and Liberal Arts and Sciences along with the Graduate School. She worked with key legislatures and local leaders to secure $5 million to support development for the Rowan campus in Camden, N.J.
She previously served a dean of the School of Professional Studies at SUNY Cortland, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and director of articulation at the University System of Maryland, and executive assistant to the president at Towson State University.
She is the former chair of the American Association of College and Universities board. She is a past president of the International Society for College and University Planning and has been a planning consultant for numerous organizations. She has a long list of academic and professional awards and commendations, including the National Award of Distinction from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and was named as a “New Century Leader” by New Hampshire Magazine.
She earned a bachelor of arts in psychobiology, a master of science in science education with Pennsylvania teaching certificates in biology and general science and a PhD in measurement, evaluation and techniques of experimental research from University of Pennsylvania. She also holds a master’s in zoology from Rutgers University. She also took pregraduate classes at the University of the Sciences, then known as Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science.
The native of Alabama is the mother of one daughter, Lauren, who attends college in New Hampshire.
Based in West Philadelphia, USciences has approximately 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The private institution has distinguished itself as the nation’s first college of pharmacy.