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Hannah Holborn Gray

The only daughter in a family of academic achievers, Hanna Holborn Gray was charged with upholding the distinguished legacy of her family’s academic tradition. Determined not to disappoint, she followed a path that led her to become the first female president of a coeducational university.

At age 15, Gray entered Bryn Mawr College and graduated, summa cum laude, in 1950. A Fulbright Scholar at St. Anne’s College of Oxford University from 1950 to 1952, she interrupted her doctoral studies and returned to America to teach history at Bryn Mawr from 1953-54.

After completing the Ph.D. program at Harvard in 1957, she taught on Harvard’s faculty through 1960. A distinguished historian, she joined the history faculty at the University of Chicago in 1961 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1964. After a number of fellowships at schools throughout the country, she continued to teach at Chicago until 1972.

Named Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of History at Northwestern University in 1972 — the first woman to hold that position — she was elected provost of Yale University — another first — in 1974. She served as acting president of Yale from 1977 to 1978.

In 1977, she was elected to serve as the 10th President of the University of Chicago, a position she held for 15 years. Gray remains Harry Pratt Judson Professor Emeritus at the University and continues to offer advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in history. She currently serves as the chair of the Board of the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute.