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Carol Quillen

President , Davidson College

Carol Quillen became the 18th president of Davidson College on August 1, 2011.

A respected scholar and an accomplished administrator, Quillen came to Davidson from Rice University in Houston, Texas, where she served most recently as vice president for international and interdisciplinary initiatives.

Quillen grew up in New Castle, Delaware, a small town where she says “it was second nature to support the community and look out for other people.” A Presbyterian, she attended Quaker schools from pre-kindergarten through high school. She earned a B.A. degree in American history from the University of Chicago, graduating Phi Beta Kappa with special and general honors, then received a Ph.D. degree in European history from Princeton.

Since taking office, Quillen has engaged the Davidson community in reimagining the liberal arts experience within the changing landscape of higher education and an increasingly interconnected world.

Her emphasis on “Transition to Impact” initiatives – a budding entrepreneurship program, community-based learning, and student/faculty collaborative research among others – empowers students to develop compassion, analytic rigor, creativity, resilience, and moral courage, and enables graduates to lead in the service of something larger than themselves.

In the fall of 2012, Quillen announced a transformational gift from The Duke Endowment: $45 million to support the development of an Academic Neighborhood, a project that is intended to reimagine the possibilities of an interdisciplinary liberal arts education in the 21st century.

Ensuring educational excellence and access for all talented students regardless of their financial circumstances is a top priority for the Davidson community, and Quillen is a passionate advocate for this commitment. To be meaningful, she asserts, equal opportunity must be real. Through The Davidson Trust, the college practices need-blind admission and meets 100 percent of demonstrated need of accepted students through a combination of grants and campus employment, with no loans.

Quillen joined Rice as a member of the history faculty in 1990. From 2004 to 2008, she served as the first director of the university’s Boniuk Center for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance, leading development of the center’s new mission and shaping an agenda that helped distinguish the center from other organizations.

From 2006 to 2010, Quillen served as Rice’s vice provost for academic affairs and then as vice president for international and interdisciplinary initiatives, focusing particularly on faculty diversity and faculty development, resource development, and initiatives that cross academic disciplines and institutions.

Quillen has published two books on Petrarch, as well as scholarly articles, reviews, and papers. She received a number of teaching awards during her tenure at Rice, and also has received grants and fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, the Whiting Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, and the Harvard University Center for Renaissance Studies, among others.

Quillen was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans. She also is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools and the Board of Directors of the Levine Museum of the New South.

Quillen’s daughter, Caitlin, is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.