Retired President, Nellie Mae Educational Foundation
This article is part of groundbreaking leadership research that has received wide endorsement and rave reviews from prominent business leaders, politicians, and recognized academics who participated in the study or reviewed the research results. A total of sixteen leaders were interviewed on the topic “Leadership and Overcoming Adversity.”
Dr. Wilson overcame multiple adversities. These included significant discrimination based on race, gender, and age. Blenda’s first experience with significant discrimination was during her high school years in New Jersey. Although Blenda was in the National Honor Society, Wilson’s high school counselor totally refused to discuss or help Blenda get into college. Blenda’s comment was, “Actually, she told me to ‘take a typing class’ … then she said, ‘You’re handsome and maybe you can become a secretary.’
Wilson simply ignored the “bad” advisor and contacted various colleges directly for admissions and scholarship information. Wilson was accepted into all the universities she applied to, including top prestigious universities such as the “Seven Sisters.” However, the major universities only offer one-year scholarships with a series of renewals. Blenda wanted to get a full four-year scholarship to ensure she could complete her college education. Cedar Crest College guaranteed Blenda four years of tuition scholarship money, a travel budget, and a job. So Blenda went to Cedar Crest College and got her degree.
He did not allow anything to prevent him from receiving his education. After Blenda graduated from Cedar Crest College, she earned a master’s of education from Seton Hall and then completed a doctorate in higher education from Boston College.
Before earning her Ph.D. and launching her career in higher educational leadership, Blenda experienced gender and age discrimination from African American men, both within her organization and in the local community. Although Wilson was clearly more qualified and more educated than her male competition, many people expressed opposition to her being appointed Executive Director of the Middlesex County Economic Opportunity Corporation and Head Start Program. Blenda Wilson noted, “The African American men in the community were upset that a woman would get this key position … One of the criteria was that they wanted someone with a master’s degree. I had one. None of the African American men did.” Blenda experimented. age and gender discrimination and prejudice by black and white men.
Blenda Wilson shared that taking a leave of absence from her teaching position at the local high school to become the Executive Director of the Middlesex County Economic Opportunity Corporation “really changed my life. I started doing the Head Start program … Everything. This was in the 1960s, with the “War on Poverty,” the Office of Economic Opportunity. [Wilson] it was going to change the world. “
In 1969, after earning her doctorate, Dr. Wilson began her career in higher education administration at Rutgers University. Then, from 1972 to 1982, Blenda “was the youngest senior associate dean at the Harvard Graduate School of Education,” where, once again, she encountered age discrimination.
Dr. Blenda Wilson was the First Vice President for Effective Sector Management at Independent Sector (1982-1984). The Independent Sector is a nonpartisan coalition of approximately 600 organizations that lead, strengthen and mobilize charitable communities.
While serving in the governor’s cabinet as Executive Director of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, she created a plan (which became law in 1985) advocating for a more efficient organization of higher education within the state.
Dr. Wilson was the first woman to lead a four-year institution of higher education in the state of Michigan and became president of the Dearborn campus of the University of Michigan from 1988 to 1992. Wilson was widely recognized for her approach to the Arab-American community of Dearborn and the African community of Detroit. -American community.
During Dr. Wilson’s tenure as president of California State University, Northridge, from 1992 to 1999, Dr. Wilson enacted a series of strategic plans to better serve the populations of the San Fernando Valley. Wilson also led the University in the enormous task of rebuilding California State University after the devastating Northridge earthquake in 1994.
Dr. Blenda Wilson was president of the prestigious American Association for Higher Education. Wilson was the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and was Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, where she served on the Board of Directors from 2003 to 2006. Dr. Wilson has served on the Board of Directors of numerous -for-profit corporations such as the Getty Museum, The College Board, and recently served as interim president of their Alma Mater undergraduate degree, Cedar Crest College.
Dr. Wilson was the first president and CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation from 1999 to 2006. The Nellie Mae Education Foundation, established in 1998, is New England’s largest public charity dedicated to improving academic achievement. of marginalized communities. During her seven-year tenure, Dr. Blenda Wilson was a very successful Executive Director at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.
Under Dr. Wilson’s leadership, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF) distributed more than $ 80 million in grants to various educational institutions and non-profit organizations to improve access to college for deserving students. NMEF was established to promote accessibility, quality, and effectiveness in education from the preschool to the postsecondary levels, especially for underserved populations. The Nellie Mae Education Foundation has net assets of approximately $ 400 million, making it one of the largest foundations in New England and the largest focused solely on improving higher education.
Dr. Wilson has received honorary degrees from more than 25 colleges and universities, including Cedar Crest College, Rutgers, the University of Massachusetts, Brandeis University, and Boston College. Wilson has served on the boards of Boston College and Union Theological Seminary, the board of directors of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, the board of directors of Higher Education Resource Services, and the boards of Boston’s “After School and Beyond,” Boston College. and the Dorchester Federal Neighborhood Houses. Wilson is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Medco Health Solutions.
Dr. Blenda Wilson has an impressive lifelong record of effectively handling complicated educational policy issues. Dr. Blenda Wilson still takes time out of her busy schedule to guide and train potential selected female leaders.
Dr. Blenda Wilson’s story shares a lifelong struggle against adversity, especially age, race and gender discrimination, and is an excellent example of a prominent and successful leader who has overcome adversity.