Eureka College has its first female and African-American president in the institution’s 163-year history. Dr. Jamel Santa Cruze Wright has served as the interim president for slightly more than a year. She was officially named the 27th president of Eureka College Tues.
Wright says being the first female and African-American president of the college is significant. But she says it is also aligned with the college’s history since it was the first in the state and third in the nation to admit men and women on an equal basis.
“We were graduating women. We were graduating African-Americans and other people of color long, long ago even before the great depression, during the years of Reagan and all of that. So we have had that type of amazing history. So this is significant because I am the first, but it is not a surprise,” Wright said.
The College Board of Trustees Chairman made the announcement. Bill King says the leadership Wright showed as the interim president made it very clear she was the best person for the job. Wright says taking the interim role at the time the state didn’t have a budget or MAP Student Aid funding helped her grow in the leadership role.
“I think we figured out what was the right thing to do. Which is for us to take on the debt, to offer our student the opportunity to sign promissory notes and pay us in small amounts per month until we were able to pay it. And that was with the assumption and not knowing if we were going to get it or not,” Wright said.
Eureka’s fall student enrollment is flat. But President Wright says that is still on target and gives the college a firm foundation to recruit a bigger freshmen class next year.