UA names first female president

UA names first female president

Executive Vice President and Provost Judy Bonner has been named the interim president at the University of Alabama following current President Robert Witt’s move to chancellor of UA System.

Bonner is the first female president to lead UA since its founding in 1831.

“Since 2003, the University of Alabama has thrived under the vision and leadership of Dr. Witt,” Bonner said in an emailed statement. “During the next few months, I look forward to working with the UA family to keep our University on a trajectory of growth with quality and to maintaining our long-standing commitment to excellence in every endeavor.”

Bonner, who received her bachelor's degree in nutrition and master’s degree in food and nutrition from the University, was promoted to UA’s executive vice president and provost in April 2006 after serving as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs since March 2003.

She was named dean of the College of Human Environmental Studies at the University in 1989 and, prior to that, served as special assistant to the president, assistant academic vice president and head of the Department of Human Nutrition and Hospitality Management.

“Judy Bonner is the senior administrator I have worked with most closely during my nine years as president of UA,” Witt said in an emailed statement. “She has been by my side as we have framed the vision for our future and as we have executed the strategic plan that has turned that vision into a reality.”

Bonner has held faculty positions at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and The Ohio State University, where she earned her Ph.D. in human nutrition.

In 2011, Bonner was awarded the Patriotic Employer award, honoring her for her support for employees in both the National Guard and Reserve, and was appointed by Gov. Robert Bentley to serve on the Alabama Commission on Improving State Government. In 2007, she also approved iTour Bama, the nation’s first student-produced virtual campus tour.

Lisa Dorr, associate professor in the department of history, said naming Bonner interim president is a great moment for the women of Alabama.

“It is clear that higher education has started to recognize that women have heretofore untapped potential for leadership,” Dorr said. “They have proven themselves to be excellent researchers, scholars, teachers and mentors. I have no doubt that they will be excellent presidents as well.”

Dorr, referencing presidents Mary Sue Coleman at the University of Michigan and Drew Gilpin Faust at Harvard, said UA is not alone in recognizing the talents of women in leadership positions.

“It is nice to see Alabama moving into such illustrious nationally-recognized company,” Dorr said. “It is wonderful that society is beginning to recognize that if a society excludes women from leadership, it cuts itself off from half its talent pool. In an age in which we focus so much on efficiency and accountability, that seems a tremendous waste of resources.”

Finis St. John, a member of the board of trustees, said Bonner was the right-hand person to Witt and has been involved with the University for a long time.

“She was the obvious choice [for interim president], and I don’t think there was ever any serious question,” St. John said.

Mark Nelson, vice president for Student Affairs, said he is certain that the University will continue to thrive under Bonner’s leadership.

“I really can’t think of anyone better to lead this University in this time of transition than Dr. Bonner,“ Nelson said.

UA system spokeswoman Kellee Reinhart said the changes were effective immediately. Bonner will continue to function in the role of provost in addition to serving as the interim president.

“Our outstanding faculty and staff demonstrate their commitment to our students and their success on a daily basis, and I am honored to have this opportunity to serve as interim president during this time of transition,” Bonner said in an emailed statement.



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