Dolores R. Spikes, a former Southern University System president, passed away Monday.
She was 78.
The Louisiana House held a moment of silence to remember her.
In 1988, Spikes was appointed president of Southern University and A&M College System, becoming the first woman in the United States to head a university system.
She also was Louisiana’s first female chancellor of a public university, when she was chosen as chancellor for Southern University Baton Rouge and Southern University New Orleans in the late 1980s.
“We are profoundly saddened by the news of President Emeritus Dolores Spikes’ death. She was a devout daughter of Southern University who became a trailblazing giant in higher education in Louisiana and the nation,” Southern System President Ronald Mason Jr. said in a prepared statement.
The Dolores Margaret Richard Spikes Honors College at Southern University Baton Rouge is named in her honor.
“Her brilliance was only matched by her zeal for improving the access and impact of education for a diverse array of students,” U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, said in an email. “Her contributions to higher education in Louisiana and throughout the country cannot be overstated. She blazed a trail and built a legacy that will live on for generations to come.”
Spikes served as president of the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, Maryland, from 1997 until 2001.
Spikes laid the groundwork for the institution to evolve into the 21st century historically black institution it has become, UMES President Juliette B. Bell said. During her tenure at UMES, the university built the Hytche Athletics Center and the Student Services Center, both much-needed structures that today define campus life for the entire university community.
Spikes was born to Lawrence Granville Richard and Margaret Patterson Richard in Baton Rouge on Aug. 24, 1936. She graduated from Southern University Baton Rouge with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics, summa cum laude, in 1957.
She earned a master’s degree in mathematics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and, in 1971, made history by becoming the first black graduate to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics from LSU.
She was appointed as a board member of Harvard University’s Institute of Educational Management in 1987.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton named Spikes to his board of advisors on historically black colleges and universities.
Two years later, Spikes was named vice chairwoman of the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grand Universities.
She was named the Southern University system president emeritus.
“Dr. Dolores Margaret Richard Spikes was a shining star among the leaders of Southern University. She brought national acclaim to the university as she guided the Baton Rouge campus and the system through some of its most challenging times,” said Flandus McClinton Jr., acting Southern University Baton Rouge chancellor. “She was beloved and respected by faculty, staff, students and alumni during her tenure. She will be missed, but her legacy will live on. Southern University has truly lost a giant.”
At Southern University New Orleans, Chancellor Victor Ukpolo said: “She left an indelible legacy as a remarkable educator and leader of our time. Dr. Spikes truly will be missed.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.
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