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Bennett College names Suzanne Walsh new president
Leader-elect's background in philanthropic sector
Published Monday, July 1, 2019 10:19 am
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

Suzanne Walsh is Bennett College's new president, effective Aug. 1.

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Bennett College reached into the philanthropy ranks for its new president.

The Greensboro school named Suzanne Walsh as Phyllis Dawkins’ successor last week. Dawkins, a Johnson C. Smith University graduate, spearheaded Bennett’s emergency fundraising initiative that netted more than $9 million earlier this year as the school faced the loss of its accreditation. Walsh’s experience includes leadership roles with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation and The Heinz Endowments.

“Bennett College sought a new president to embrace and champion innovative ideas that ensure our long-term viability. We were committed to having an exceptional leader in place when our students returned for the 2019-2020 academic year,” said Gladys Robinson, chair of Bennett’s board of trustees. “Suzanne Walsh has the experience, passion, fundraising expertise and personal qualities that will ensure she is embraced by our students, faculty, staff, alumnae and community.”

Walsh will officially start on Aug. 1. Gwendolyn O’Neal, Bennett’s interim president, will transition to chief operating officer.

“Bennett College has a compelling mission to produce accomplished young women who are ready to lead,” Walsh said. “In an ever-changing world that I believe is thirsting for their leadership, that mission feels more relevant than ever, and what excites me is the opportunity to help translate it for a new era. I look forward to working closely with our board, faculty, students, alumnae and supporters to find new and powerful ways of delivering on Bennett’s promise, which is the promise of a great education and an enduring commitment to the world around us.”

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges voted in February to uphold revocation of Bennett’s accreditation after two years on probation because of concerns the 470-student campus – up 16 percent since Dawkins arrived as president in 2016 – didn’t have sufficient finances for day-to-day operations.

“Our enrollment is up, fundraising is up, we finished last year with a [financial] surplus,” Dawkins told The Post in January. “We had a good year overall. The metrics were headed in the right direction.”

In response, Bennett, one of two historically black schools for women, launched an aggressive #StandWithBennett campaign to raise awareness and $5 million ahead of its appeal. The final tally topped $9.5 million.

Walsh, who earned an undergraduate degree in social work from Cornell University, and master’s from Case Western Reserve University, is a member of the Ohio Bar. She has earned national recognition for her work in the nonprofit sector on innovation, technology and learning. Part of Walsh’s duties will include working with Bennett’s Reengineering Committee to identify ways to transform the school’s academics future.

“We have a unique opportunity to take Bennett College to a new level under the leadership of Suzanne Walsh. We are grateful for the work that’s been done so far and look forward to all collectively working together to make this happen,” said Bob Brown, chairman of B&C Associates, a High Point public relations firm whose wife is a Bennett graduate.


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