Photo by Richard Howard
A College president-to-be quickly learns that Wellesley students snap their fingers when they approve of something.
Exhibit A, February 2016: Laura Daignault Gates ’72, chair of the board of trustees, is standing on the stage of Alumnae Hall, introducing Wellesley’s 14th president to the College community. Paula Adina Johnson, she says, is a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. A chorus of snaps fills the auditorium. Johnson built the Division of Women’s Health at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Med, Gates says, and she has dedicated her career to the health and lives of women. Snap, snap, snap, snap.
A brief expression of confusion flashes across Johnson’s face, and then she understands. The students are wildly enthusiastic about the unanimous choice of the presidential search committee and board of trustees. They are thrilled to welcome the College’s first African-American president.
There are cheers, too, as Johnson speaks of women’s leadership being recognized today “as transforming health, education, and economies—the economies of families, cities, and whole countries.” Wellesley’s “laser-beam focus” on the development of young women is highly relevant, she says, and the need is to educate women who will not just make a difference in the world, but who will transform it.
Snaps, and cheers, and smiles prevail. Then the community adjourns for cookies, handshakes, and selfies with the 14th president.