Dolores Spikes, Trailblazer as President of Southern University, Dies at 78

Dolores Spikes (Naville Oubre/Southern University Office of Media Relations)
Dolores Spikes (Naville Oubre/Southern University Office of Media Relations)
Dolores Spikes (Naville Oubre/Southern University Office of Media Relations)

William Grimes, THE NEW YORK TIMES

(The New York Times) — Dolores Spikes, who became the first woman to head a university system in the United States when, in 1988, she was named president of the Southern University and A & M College System in Louisiana, and who fought court-ordered desegregation of the state’s colleges to protect Southern’s identity as a black institution, died on June 1 in Baton Rouge, La. She was 78.

Edward Pratt, a university spokesman, said she had been suffering from a long illness, which he did not specify.

In the early 1980s, the Department of Justice ordered Louisiana to revamp what the department described as a racially segregated system of higher education. In 1989, it issued an order calling for the merger of the governing boards and operations of the state’s black and white university systems and the introduction of racial quotas to integrate student enrollment.

Administrators at Louisiana’s historically black schools, which included Grambling State University, feared that the new system would lead to a dilution of their mission to serve black students and an erosion of state financial support. Southern’s total enrollment of about 14,000 made it the largest black university in the country.

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