Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell

On August 1, 2015, Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell began her tenure as the 10th president of Spelman College. 

Prior to arriving in Atlanta, Dr. Campbell was a major force in the cultural life of New York City. Her career in New York began at the Studio Museum in Harlem, where she served for 10 years. Her role there began at a time when the city was on the verge of bankruptcy and Harlem was in steep decline. However, under her leadership, the museum was transformed from a rented loft to the country’s first accredited Black Fine Arts Museum. Dr. Campbell also established herself as a stalwart supporter who championed the need for professional development opportunities for women and people of color in the arts. When she left the Studio Museum of Harlem in 1987, the organization was recognized as a linchpin in the economic revitalization of the 125th street corridor and a major center for the study of the visual arts of the Black Atlantic.

New York’s late Mayor Edward I. Koch invited Dr. Campbell to serve as the city’s cultural affairs commissioner in 1987. In this role, she led the Department of Cultural Affairs which oversees the operations and capital development of the city’s major cultural institutions. As a commissioner, she gained a reputation as an indefatigable advocate for large and small arts organizations throughout all five boroughs.

Dr. Campbell returned to the private sector to become dean of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in the fall of 1991. In her more than two decades as dean, the Tisch School gained a reputation for producing artistic trailblazers in theater, film and interactive media. As dean, Dr. Campbell diversified both the student body and the faculty fourfold, and she incubated several new arts and technology divisions within the school and the university. She developed the NYU Game Center, The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, The Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program, and a joint MBA/MFA Graduate Film and Business program. Additionally, she doubled the size of the school’s Interactive Telecommunication Program and founded and chaired Tisch's Department of Art and Public Policy, which examined the intersection of art, politics and public policy as it impacts individual artists and the institutions that support them in a democratic culture.

In September 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Campbell as the vice chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, a non-partisan advisory committee to the President on cultural matters. As vice chair, Dr. Campbell took an active role in reaffirming the arts as one of the ingredients essential to effective public school education. 

She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently sits on the boards of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Estee Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation and  the High Museum of Art, as well as on the advisory board of the Bonner Foundation. In 2017, Dr. Campbell was appointed to serve as a member of the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers in the city of New York. She also holds numerous honorary degrees, including one from her alma mater, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Campbell is a contributor to several publications including Artistic Citizenship: Artistry, Social Responsibility, and Ethical Praxis; New York Reimagined: Artists, Art Organizations, and the Rebirth of a City (Oxford University Press, 2016); Four Generations: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection of Abstract Art, Foreword (Gregory R. Miller & Co., 2016); co-editor of Artistic Citizenship: A Public Voice for the Arts,(Routledge, 2006); co-author of Harlem Renaissance: Art of Black America (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1987); and Memory and Metaphor: The Art of Romare Bearden, 1940-1987 (Oxford University Press & The Studio Museum in Harlem, 1991).

Currently, she is completing a book on Romare Bearden for Oxford University Press. Campbell received a bachelor’s of art degree in English literature from Swarthmore College, a master’s of art in art history from Syracuse University, and a doctorate in humanities, from Syracuse. She and her husband, Dr. George Campbell, Jr., president emeritus of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, are the parents of three sons and have six grandchildren.