President Fernandes plants her roots


Juliet Magoon/Guilfordian

Jane Fernandes delivers her inaugural speech, ‘Inspiring Distinction.’

On Aug. 26, President Jane K. Fernandes was welcomed as Guilford College’s first woman president and the first deaf woman president of an American college during the inauguration of the college’s ninth president.

Family, friends, students, alumni, faculty and staff gathered at Dana Auditorium to celebrate the historical event.

When growing up, Fernandes dreamed of running a diverse and inclusive school. That dream became true when the board of trustees selected her as president in the spring of 2014.

“(Jane is) a match and a fit (for Guilford),” said Chair of the Board of Trustees Ed Winslow.

Fernandes, who began her role as president on July 1, 2014, has been working on building a more inclusive Guilford.

“She cares about the people who are here and takes time to understand frustrations and hopes,”said Clerk of Faculty and Professor of Geology and Earth Sciences Dave Dobson in his remarks at the inauguration.

Inclusion is not new to Fernandes.

“(She) has a long and stellar record of advocating for far greater diversity and the creation of a more inclusive culture in higher education and in every sector of our country and our world,” said Johnnetta B. Cole, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., in her remarks at the inauguration.

Tanisha Layne ‘03 was impressed with Fernandes’ openness to fighting issues such as racism, as well with her work on promoting inclusivity.

Fernandes’ first year at Guilford has not been an easy one. The college faced low enrollment and a budget deficit.

“I think with the foundation of Quaker values, which I feel Jane definitely embraces and embodies, she has the leadership and perseverance,” said Tanya Feragins ’71.

Fernandes started her remarks by welcoming everybody to a new school year and highlighting Guilford’s mission to prepare “ethical leaders who value equality, act with integrity and are committed to the world’s collective future.”

“So, what is the future I envision (for Guilford)?” asked Fernandes. “A small liberal arts college of distinction doing a few things splendidly.”

Fernandes also shared a plan on creating a college of distinction.

“Enrollment is Guilford’s number one priority,” said Fernandes.

She plans to attract students by creating mission-related majors, increasing online presence and making the success of Guilford graduates known.

This fall, she will gather a committee to create a new strategic plan for the college.

“I believe that Jane will continue to push for a strong and bright future for Guilford,” said senior Lucas Prillaman.

Like Prillaman, many other Guilford students were optimistic about Jane’s leadership.

“I am proud to be here,” said junior Allison Quigley. “I think Guilford will be a closer community (because of Jane).”