Melissa Gilliam, Boston University

Dr. Melissa Gilliam Makes History As First Black Woman President Of Boston University

On Wednesday, Oct. 4, Boston University named Dr. Melissa Gilliam, a renowned physician and former Ohio State University official, president of the city’s largest institution. The appointment marks the first woman and first Black leader since the school’s inception in 1839.

Gilliam will assume her new duties beginning July 1, 2024. The 58-year-old distinguished academic and medical professional succeeds Robert Brown, who has led Boston University since 2005. Gilliam will inherit his challenges to continue progressing in how the school approaches an ever-changing societal landscape.

“In many ways, we are being asked to define our purpose and our views,” said Gilliam. “They’re really good questions. It prevents us from resting on our laurels. We have to really be honest with ourselves about the concerns that people have, listen deeply, and then figure out how we’re going to address them.”

Gilliam will face the issue of many predominately white universities who face fears of a major decline in minority enrollment following the Supreme Court decision to strike down affirmative action.

“If we create an environment where students feel included and aware that this is a place where they’re going to get a tremendous education, but also really feel like it’s home, then you start to create a virtuous cycle,” the Yale, University of Oxford, and Harvard Medical School alumna said.

“Then students [start] informing others, and they’re going to want to apply and come here.” Still, Gilliam has faith in the connection the university has to the communities in the area. “I’m really excited about how engaged Boston University is in the city and how engagement has been a hallmark of BU,” she said.

“I’m looking forward to hearing from people, learning and listening. I lead by listening, collaborating, and empowering other people. That is the best way to run big organizations, to get everyone excited and engaged, and doing more than they think they’re capable of doing. This philosophy is core to shared governance, an essential component of a thriving university.”