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Gray-Little, Bernadette

Year Inducted: 
  • Chancellor, University of Kansas
  • Psychologist and University Administrator
  • Far Above capital campaign, bringing in $1.6 billion to KU
  • Supervised Central District planning and funding

Bernadette Gray-Little has served as the chancellor of the University of Kansas since 2009. She is a pre-eminent leader in higher education and a notable scholar and educator, as well as the first woman and the first African-American to hold this post. She will be stepping down at the end of this academic year.

Born in Washington, N.C., Gray Little completed a B.A. degree in Psychology with the highest honors at Marywood College in Scranton, PA. She earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at St. Louis University followed by a year as a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. After serving as a clinical director of the Family Practice Center for six years, she began her academic career at the University of North Carolina (UNC).

A the University of Kansas, Chancellor Gray-Little has accumulated a significant number of major accomplishments. She planted the seeds that led to an ambitious strategic plan and a thorough redesign of the curriculum, which resulted in the KU Core; she empowered groups to redesign KU student recruiting and retention practices, which has led to a growing student body and improved institutional profile; and she convened the groups that carried out Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas and raised $1.66 billion dollars to benefit KU and the state of Kansas, to name just a few accomplishments.

Chancellor Gray-Little is noted for her “remarkable composure, humanity, and insight when dealing with others, bringing a new grace and intellect to the role of Chancellor. Her presence has raised the bar for institutional culture at KU.” This has been critical to her effectiveness as she has navigated political, economic, and cultural turbulence affecting campus climate, culture, and resources.  Stated one of her nominators, “I admire her tenacity, her skill in maneuvering difficult situations, and her firm grounding as a leader. She has led during turbulence with a clear and calm focus.” 

No less important has been her investment in the personal growth of all students at the University. She demonstrates her commitment through her presence and actions.  Says one of her nominators, “Chancellor Gray-Little has empowered me and countless other female students in all aspects of leadership while at KU. I have had the privilege to learn from and admire her confidence, intellect, strategic foresight, and determination… She has succeeded in putting students and the future of the university first.“  A testament to her impact is summed up by his student’s comments, “her principled leadership and lasting positive impact on KU make me proud to wear “KANSAS” across my chest – on all days, not just basketball game days!”

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