Another historic transition today at Girard College
by Martha Woodell, Philadelphia Inquirer
Autumn Joy Adkins, an educator with experience in Friends and private schools, will be sworn in as the 16th president of Girard College in a historic ceremony this afternoon on the campus of the private boarding school for low-income students in the city’s Fairmount section.
Adkins, 37, is the first woman and the first African American tapped to lead the school that was created through a bequest of 19th Century merchant-banker Stephen Girard to educate poor, white, orphan boys. The school opened 161 years ago.
It took two trips to the U.S. Supreme Court, seven months of around-the-clock picketing by civil-rights protesters led by the late Cecil B. Moore and a visit from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to integrate Girard in 1965. Another lawsuit led to the admission of the first girls in 1984.
Adkins, whose selection was announced in March, has been at the helm of the school since July. She succeeds Dominic M. Cermele, a 1949 Girard alum, who retired in June after serving as president for six years.
This academic year, Girard is providing a free, college-prep education to 623 low-income children from first through twelfth grades.
Adkins is a native of Monongahela outside Pittsburgh who spent much of her childhood in Richmond, Va. Her investiture ceremony will be held in the chapel on Girard’s 43-acre campus at Girard and Corinthian Avenues. CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien is scheduled to deliver the keynote address.