By Deborah Bailey, Special to the AFRO
AC Jordan Basketball Arena on the campus of Bowie State University was awash in in a sea of black and gold Thursday, with students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters crowding into the transformed gym of Maryland’s oldest HBCU. The campus overflowed with well-wishers from all corners of the state and across the nation who gathered to witness the installation of Bowie’s 10th president and first female leader, Dr. Aminta Breaux.
University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert L. Caret administered the oath of installation, recognizing Breaux’s ability to lead in the Maryland higher education system.
“In a short eight months as president, she has not only worked in detailed fashion to improve educational quality for students, faculty and staff; she has also become an important voice among her fellow presidents throughout the University System of Maryland,” Caret said to the AFRO.
Michelle A. Gourdine, M.D., University System of Maryland Board of Regents member since 2015 expressed excitement about the role the university’s new Center for Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Nursing will play in “preparing a new generation of diverse leaders in healthcare,” under Breaux’s leadership.
“She is a proven leader and innovator and understands both the history and the future of Bowie State. You need look no further than the fact that she has adopted as her mantra, “racing to excellence,” which denotes her energetic and innovative leadership style,” said Gourdine.
Janay Carpenter, a current graduate student in Public Administration, has dreams for the growth of Bowie State University. Carpenter received an undergraduate degree in psychology from the campus in 2011 and believes Breaux can help Bowie students identify their unique identity. “She can help us capture and market our unique Bowie brand – those things that separate Bowie graduates from the rest of the pack,” Carpenter said.
Breaux’s presidential peers at Morgan, Coppin and UMES gave her the warm welcome of a family member, and a collaborator with specialized knowledge. The state’s four HBCU’s work together with increasing frequency to discuss vision, innovation on their campuses and ways each remains committed to traditional values while embracing new populations looking to access the HBCU experience.
“I welcome Dr. Aminta H. Breaux as a colleague in higher education. She has a great appreciation for the role of HBCUs here in the state of Maryland and I look forward to working with her as her tenure as Bowie State unfolds,” said Morgan State University President, David Wilson.
Maria Thompson, President of Coppin State University and Juliette Bell, President of University of Maryland Eastern Shore, both consider Breaux as their “sister president” sharing a special pride and appreciation for the significance of the day’s events.
“She joins a select group of women who have broken one of the highest and toughest glass ceilings in the country — only 5% of university presidents are African American women,” said Thompson.
“I welcome her to this Sisterhood of University Presidents, and I am pleased and proud to call her my sister.”
Bell, who is retiring from UMES at the end of the 2018 academic year shared heartfelt sentiments for Breaux with the AFRO. “As I have come to know Aminta over the past several months, I am confident that she will be a phenomenal leader for Bowie State University. If I had to offer any words of wisdom, I would share what a dear friend and mentor once told me upon my ascent to a senior leadership position. He said, “Wear your own shoes,” Bell said.
“People will tell you that you have “big shoes to fill”, but you can’t force your feet into shoes that have been molded to someone else’s feet. Be yourself – do you.”