Before 1968, Girard College, located in Philadelphia, was a white-only boys school, and before 1984, girls were not allowed into the school. Now a black woman, Autumn Adkins, is the president of Girard.
Peter Shoemaker, chairman of the board of managers at Girard, is delighted by the new president.
“She is highly intelligent, she is highly driven, she is extremely communicative,” he told the Washington Post. “She has evolved a very clear vision for the school.”
Adkins, who became president in October of 2009, grew up in an upper-middle class Virginia suburb. Volunteer work in poor neighborhoods as a teenager inspired her to go into the education profession. Adkins aspired for a job like this early on in life. On a college application, she later wrote that she hoped of starting a boarding school for underprivileged students.
Girard College, not an actual college, but a boarding school that assists first through 12th-graders, was named after Stephen Girard, a French-born sea captain. He was likely the richest person in America by the time of his death in 1831.
When Girard died, he endowed the city of Philadelphia $6 million, most of which helped build Girard College. Originally, the tuition-free school was for poor, fatherless white boys. The school opened in 1848 and was run by wealthy white men, until now.
Now, the school has 620 students, most of which are black and half are female. The students all come from low-income families with single-parent or single-guardian households.
As the first black female president of Girard, Adkins plans to expand the curriculum, increase teacher salaries and update the facilities. She also hopes to better prepare students for college. School officials said that less than half of the students received degrees within six years.
“I have been really putting a lot of energy around making school exciting,” Adkins told the Washington Post. “It needs to be engaging. I’ve said to several of my administrators, I don’t want teachers wasting kids’ time – they’re young. It’s just not fair.”
Via the Washington Post