It was quite a homecoming for Dr. Helen F. Giles-Gee. A standing room only crowd at USciences’ McNeil Science and Technology Center was packed with University faculty, staff, and students as well as honored guests to welcome the University’s 22nd president.
Dr. Giles-Gee, who is currently the president at Keene State College in Keene, N.H., was officially named USciences’ president on March 19. But while Dr. Giles-Gee has been at Keene since 2005, she spent quite a bit of time in the Delaware Valley, first as a student at University of Pennsylvania for her undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees, and then later as provost at Rowan University. And her connection to USciences is even closer as she took pre-graduate classes at one point from then-Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science.
But it quickly became apparent during her introduction that her ties to Philadelphia area went beyond her place of education and work. State Representative James R. Roebuck, Jr., and City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell spoke highly of one of Dr. Giles-Gee’s four sisters, Deborah Giles, who many know personally.
Dr. Giles-Gee expressed honor in being selected president. She described her decision to come to USciences as one that was simple and singular: “It was based on the strong historic reputation that this University has, (its) dynamic reputation (for) the (Philadelphia) College of Pharmacy since 1821, its expansion through the sciences, its core of liberal arts with skills development throughout the sciences and healthcare, its dynamism, and its vision for the future.”
During interviews and discussions with the search committee and other representatives, Dr. Giles-Gee recalled, “You told me that you wanted to be able to trust the president, you wanted transparency, you wanted communication, you wanted to move forward. And with that, I also extracted some promises,” she said. “Be with me for the tough decisions. Be with me as we move forward and drive this university to the top with the recognition that is nationwide because I believe this university deserves it. When we look at the challenges that are facing this nation, let's be real, all of the challenges are being faced right at this university.”
“She is not only making history as the first female and first African-American president of this great school, her resume is spectacular,” said Mayor Michal A. Nutter in reference to the new president’s 30-plus years in higher education. “Her accomplishments make her more than eminently qualified for this position.”
“We recognized that we had to find exactly the right person who would lead and guide us—seizing opportunities and successfully facing challenges,” said Board Chairman Marvin Samson, who has been serving as interim president. “We have found just that person, and I feel very fortunate.”
During her remarks to the USciences community, Dr. Giles-Gee also made clear her resolve to bring community, expansion, and visions of the future to USciences.
“We have found the perfect individual and the right person to lead the University of the Sciences into the next phase of its amazing future,” said Kathleen Mayes, P’76, PharmD’78, who chaired the presidential search committee. “We look forward to working with our new president, and we’re so glad she’s here today.”