Wellesley College Welcomes 14th President, Paula A. Johnson

Murmurs of excitement rippled through the Wellesley College campus in the days leading up to the long-anticipated inauguration ceremony. Online, a social media count down was underway weeks in advance, while the college’s greenery was groomed extensively in preparation for the momentous occasion. Finally, on September 30th, 2016, Paula A. Johnson was inaugurated as Wellesley College’s fourteenth president. The event opened with a procession to the event on Severance Green, led by the school’s very own African dance and drum ensemble Yanvalou. Wellesley alumnae from various years donned their class colors and brandished class pennants. Alongside them were athletes representing either themselves or alums who made appearances in NCAA championship finals, including our most recent NCAA champions and first team champions, Wellesley Crew.

The ceremony included greetings from notable speakers Senator Elizabeth Warren, Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust, Smith College President Kathleen McCartney, and founding director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health Dr. Vivian W. Pinn. In her own speech, President Johnson captivated the community with words of wisdom while also exuding her warmth and grace expanding upon Wellesley’s pre-existing enthusiasm.

Despite being new to campus, “P.J.”, as Wellesley students and alums have affectionately nicknamed her, has made her presence felt, making appearances at school-wide social events, such as an ice cream social supporting the college’s new career services. President Johnson also made the trek out to the athletic facilities to introduce herself to many of the varsity teams on campus for pre-season.

President Johnson is Wellesley’s first African-American president, and previously served as executive director for Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Conners Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology. Her résumé also includes work as a professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. If you haven’t had the chance to see her speak yet, you can watch her powerful TED Talk here, where she demands equal representation for women in medical research.

The festivities continued long after the ceremony with a celebratory cocktail reception, dinner, and an evening soiree. Glowing beneath a white spotlight in front of a Wellesley backdrop, President Johnson took the reception before dinner as an opportunity to meet and greet with Wellesley alums, trustees, trustees emerita, visiting delegates from other colleges and universities, and other special guests. She then spent a memorable few moments addressing the thankfulness and love she has for her family, citing both her mother and father as strong pillars from her youth to now.

While at the inaugural ceremony, I felt a great sense of pride both in Wellesley and in our new president. As a member of the senior class of 2017, I count myself as fortunate to be able to spend my last year at Wellesley under President Johnson’s leadership. The smiles, cheers, claps and snaps were infectious and traveled throughout the tent within a matter of milliseconds. Few other events have managed to capture the true connectedness and enthusiasm that makes the Wellesley network so special. That Friday evening, the siblinghood could be felt from miles away.

President Johnson, Wellesley College is thrilled to have you and we cannot wait to see all that you will accomplish during your time with us!