Janet L. Holmgren Leaves Mills Fulfilled

Her two-decade legacy ushered the College into the ranks of America’s most respected

Janet L. Holmgren’s unprecedented 20-year tenure as President of Mills College in Oakland ends June 30. Her legacy is marked by numerous achievements that helped advance Mills College academically. She launched a major fundraising drive that leaves the school fiscally sound in the black.
“During her 20 years as President, Janet Holmgren created a national model for women’s education while simultaneously increasing educational opportunities for a diverse group of talented graduate women and men,” says Kathleen J. Burke, chair of the Mills College Board of Trustees. “Her vision and exemplary guidance have been true assets to our College. Generations of future students will benefit from her thoughtful, strategic, and creative leadership.”
Today, Mills College has a 45 percent enrollment increase since Holmgren took the reins in 1991.
Holmgren’s untiring commitment to diversity has resulted in women of color and first-generation college students now comprising the majority of the Mills College student body. The Mills student body is comprised of 39 percent students of color, and 28 percent faculty of color, compared with 21 percent students of color, and 5 percent faculty of color in 1991. In addition to increasing faculty diversity, Holmgren expanded the size of the faculty to support innovative academic programs and recruited a diverse team of administrators to oversee the College’s growth. Moreover, under her leadership, the percentage of tenured and tenure -track female faculty rose by 10 percent.
Holmgren began her presidency at Mills College in 1991, one year after the historic strike that overturned the College’s decision to become coeducational at the undergraduate level—a critical juncture in Mills’ history. Under Holmgren’s 20-year tenure, she broke all enrollment and fundraising records, expanded undergraduate academic programs and graduate education, and introduced the College’s first doctoral degree—an EdD in educational leadership. In addition to building Mills into one of the top women’s colleges in the nation, Holmgren was also responsible for introducing the innovative Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business dedicated to preparing ethical and socially responsible organizational leaders.
Holmgren’s noteworthy achievements during her presidency also include introduction of new majors in intermedia, public policy, biopsychology, and environmental science, and the distinctive 4+1 degree programs that enable students to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years. Additionally, Holmgren oversaw capital campaign improvements on campus totaling more than $100 million, including the construction of two LEED-certified green buildings—the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business and the Betty Irene Moore Natural Sciences building, facilities to house the School of Education and contemporary housing for students. During her tenure, Holmgren oversaw the restoration of the campus historical landmark Mills Hall following the Loma Prieta earthquake, renovated the Littlefield Concert Hall and restored its nationally celebrated Boynton murals and frescoes.
Mills’ endowment under Holmgren’s leadership grew from $71.2 million in 1990 to $175 million in 2010. She also led the College’s capital program to raise more than $130 million—$32 million over goal—contributing to funds for scholarships and academic programs.
She worked with the city of Oakland’s community leaders and elected officials on issues such as educational reform, city planning, and business development. She helped create a new foundation for the city’s revival.
After leaving, Holmgren intends to continue expanding her affiliations in Oakland and the state. She will start a yearlong sabbatical to annotate her presidential archives and travel the world visiting colleagues and alumnae. Then she plans to return to Mills College in spring 2012 to pursue teaching, writing, and new avenues for women’s leadership.
Holmgren will be succeeded by Alecia A. DeCoudreaux, who will take over as the 13th President of Mills College beginning July 1.
Nestled in the foothills of Oakland, Mills College boasts over 950 undergraduate women and more than 600 graduate women and men. The College ranks as one of the Best 373 Colleges in the country and one of the greenest colleges in the nation by The Princeton Review. U.S. News & World Report ranked Mills one of the top-tier regional universities in the country and second among colleges and universities in the West in its “Great Schools, Great Prices” category. For more information, visit www.mills.edu.