Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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Gwendolyn Boyd ’79MS: back to the Hornets' nest

One might need a good head for numbers—and a lot of faith—to take on the presidency of Alabama State University right now. With an undergraduate degree in math and a doctorate in divinity, Gwendolyn Boyd ’79MS may be just the ticket.

Boyd, a 1977 alumna of Alabama State, a historically black university in Montgomery, came to Yale to study mechanical engineering and became the first African American woman to earn a graduate degree in engineering from the university. She has spent most of her career as an engineer at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, picking up a doctorate in divinity from Howard University along the way. (She is an ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.)

Boyd's selection to be the first woman president of Alabama State (home of the Hornets, thus explaining our headline) was announced last Friday. She's walking into a controversy: the previous president, Joseph Silver, resigned a year ago after only 13 weeks on the job. Silver claimed he was pushed out by the trustees for questioning certain contracts. A preliminary investigation by an outside contractor alleges financial wrongdoing, allegations denied by university officials.

About those allegations, Boyd told the Birmingham News she intends to "find out what went wrong and then from there fix it. And we've got to be very, very transparent as we do that." More generally, she vowed to "give 110 percent of who I am and all that I bring to the table to make sure that Alabama State University goes to higher heights, that whenever our name is called pride will overwhelm people."

Filed under Gwendolyn Boyd, engineering, Alabama State
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