Wellesley Names Harvard’s Paula A. Johnson Its 14th President
WELLESLEY, Mass.—Paula A. Johnson, MD, MPH, a professor and faculty member at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has been selected to be the 14th president of Wellesley College, the preeminent liberal arts college for women. Dr. Johnson, an internationally renowned and innovative leader, currently serves as chief of the Division of Women’s Health at Harvard Medical School and Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where she founded and is executive director of the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology. She will be the first African American to serve as president of Wellesley College.
The Wellesley College Board of Trustees, advised by a search committee that included trustees, alumnae, students, faculty, and staff, unanimously approved the appointment of Dr. Johnson. The extensive, eight-month search process that led to her selection began when H. Kim Bottomly announced that she would step down as Wellesley’s president in the summer of 2016, after serving for nine years.
“The search committee was fortunate to have an exceptionally strong pool of candidates to consider, and was unanimous in recommending Dr. Johnson to the Board of Trustees,” said Debora de Hoyos, chair of the presidential search committee and a Wellesley trustee. “Even among a superb group of candidates, Dr. Johnson stood out through her record as a scholar and leader, together with her passion for women’s advancement, education, and well-being, the energy and insights she conveyed in our discussions, and her enthusiasm for Wellesley.”
“Paula Johnson is the perfect person to steer Wellesley into the future,” said Laura Daignault Gates, chair of the Wellesley College Board of Trustees. “As the College approaches its 150th year, we are steadfast in our mission to provide an excellent liberal arts education for women, because it is clear that the liberal arts and the concept of a women’s college are as important and as valid today as they have been at any time in the past.”
“Paula has dedicated her distinguished career to improving the health and lives of women,” Gates continued. “She not only has applied her deep intellectual capacity and medical training to these issues, but has led others in creating innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to addressing them. She will now bring her talents, courage, grace, and lifelong commitment to women to Wellesley College as we prepare our students to thrive in a rapidly changing and more complex world, and as we strive and work with others to create more opportunities for women.”
Andrew Shennan, provost and dean of the College and a member of the presidential search committee, said, “Paula brings a strong appreciation of Wellesley’s academic culture and distinctive contributions to higher education. She will be a compelling champion for the liberal arts and for the enduring value of the educational and scholarly work of Wellesley faculty and staff. Her ability to develop new academic initiatives and to inspire others to support them makes her an exceptional leader for this moment in the College’s history.”
Dr. Johnson’s pioneering work at the Connors Center has transformed the study of heart disease, cancer, depression, and many other illnesses—changing the foundation and practice of medicine in the United States and around the world. To ensure the successful, sustainable pursuit of health and understanding of disease in women, Dr. Johnson has also studied and created new models of leadership and has developed the training to educate the next generation of global leaders in the field of women’s health research and clinical care. In her 2013 TED Talk, “His and Her Healthcare,” Dr. Johnson said, “Women’s health is an equal rights issue as important as equal pay.”
“Dr. Johnson has devoted her life to improving the lives of women. She truly understands the issues of equity, inclusion, and well-being that are so important to Wellesley students,” said Charlotte Harris, a Wellesley senior and a member of the presidential search committee. “She will inspire us.”
“It could not be a more exciting time for Wellesley, and the opportunity to help guide Wellesley into the future, building on its mission, vision, and resolve, is one that I find deeply inspiring,” Dr. Johnson said. “I am honored and humbled to be asked to serve as Wellesley’s president, and I view this presidency as the capstone of my career, which has been devoted to the advancement of women through education and faculty development, and by working to improve their health and well-being.”
“On a personal note,” she continued, “the vital role that the College has played in educating women who impact the world in every domain has been very near and dear to my heart. I have spent my entire career literally 20 minutes from the Wellesley campus, and for nearly 27 years, I have been the daughter-in-law of a very proud Wellesley alumna.”
Dr. Johnson was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine. She has also been recognized as a national leader in medicine by the National Library of Medicine, was a 2015 honoree of the International Women’s Forum, and is the recipient of innumerable awards recognizing her groundbreaking achievements on behalf of women.
She has served as chair of the board of the Boston Public Health Commission (Boston’s board of public health) and as a member of the National Institutes of Health Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health, in addition to serving on many national and international nonprofit boards.
Dr. Johnson attended Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges, and she received her MD and MPH degrees from Harvard. She trained in internal and cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. A native of Brooklyn, New York, she lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with her husband, their son and daughter, and a Havanese puppy.
Dr. Johnson will assume the duties of president on July 1, 2016.