Birmingham-Southern College Finally Has Woman President


The Birmingham-Southern College was built in 1856, and had 1,337 students enrolled in the fall of 2015.

In over 160 years of history, it was only this year that the college had appointed its first every woman president Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith.

In an interview with AL, Flaherty-Goldsmith said being the first female president was not the most significant thing for her.

“More important is to keep moving the college forward. I’m real excited about this job.”

Before working at Birmingham-Southern College, Flaherty-Goldsmith worked as the vice president for finance and administration at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

In 2013, she also received an honorary degree of Doctorate of Humane Letters. Since then, she had been doing pro bono work with the Human Rights First, a nonprofit organization.

Outgoing BSC Board Chair Bruce Rogers had this to say on Flaherty-Goldsmith’s appointment:

“She is absolutely the best person to take on this role. She is financially savvy and brings a proven track record in higher education. Linda also has been a champion of Birmingham-Southern and she has a love of our city and deep roots in our community.”

Flaherty-Goldsmith was first the Birmingham-Southern College’s Chief of Staff for 2011 – 2013 before taking the position when former president, Dr. Edward F. Leonard III, vacated.

No reason was given as to why Dr. Leonard left, but the mystery did not dampen the celebratory mood. In fact, Rogers said,

“We are grateful for the positive impact he had on BSC, and we wish him and his family all the best.”

As the college’s 15th president, Flaherty-Goldsmith plans to “restore some things and be smart about how we grow,” admitting that BSC had to cut back on some resources to make the school more sustainable.

Six years ago, Flaherty-Goldsmith had published a book, titled “An Anguished Hallelujah”, which talked about poverty in Mississippi.

It also focused on how education could help raise people from destitution, a concept that fuels Flaherty-Goldsmith’s advocacy on enhancing BSC’s courses and activities for the students.

“It’s everything… I don’t know why we can’t figure that out and take the money we spend on prisons and put it into education.”

Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith is a native of Pontotoc, Mississippi. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Alabama and received her master’s at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

Women presidents are still a minority compared to their male counterparts, but studies over the years show that the gender gap in terms of presidency in colleges is slowly decreasing. In 1986, only 10% were woman.

In 2012, it increased to 26%, and currently, some of the Ivy League schools now have women presidents, like Elizabeth Garrett of Cornell University, Christina Paxson from Brown University, Drew Faust from Harvard, and Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania Flaherty-Goldsmith’s appointment is an empowering announcement that positions of power depend on relevant skills and not gender stereotypes.

She will start her term on July 1, 2016, and already she is excited to monitor the growing list of new enrollees at BSC.

Rob Clark admin staff managing editor

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