Hanna Holborn Gray H’17 Reflects on Life and Career

Hanna Holborn Gray, who received an honorary degree from Bowdoin College 2017, is regarded as one of the pioneering figures of the twentieth century in the world of higher education. Gray was born in 1930 in Germany, and fled the Nazi government with her family as a child. A renowned historian, she served as dean of the college of arts and sciences at Northwestern. She later served as provost and as the first female acting president at Yale. In 1978 she became the first woman in the US to hold the full presidency of a major university when she took the reins at the University of Chicago.

Gray recently published her memoir—An Academic Life (Princeton University Press 2018)—and in an interview with Inside Higher Ed, she shared her thoughts on being an immigrant, sexism, running a university, and her decision to enter “the family business.” An Academic Life by Hanna Holborn Gray is also reviewed in the current issue of Harvard Magazine.

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