Molly Corbett Broad, who became the first woman to lead the American Council on Education after breaking a similar glass ceiling as president of the University of North Carolina system, died Monday, her family announced. She was 81.
Broad’s decades-long career in higher education administration began at Syracuse University and resulted in leadership positions as chief executive officer of Arizona’s university system and executive vice chancellor of the California State University system. In 1997, she was appointed president of the North Carolina system, becoming the first woman (and the first non–North Carolinian) to lead the esteemed public system.
In 2008 she became president of ACE, higher education’s chief lobbying group, which had not had a female leader since its founding in 1918. In nine years at the organization’s helm, she overhauled ACE’s approach to the G.E.D., an alternative to the high school diploma; parried with the Obama administration over its proposal to rate colleges; and pushed college leaders to explore technology and other forms of innovation.
Ted Mitchell, who succeeded Broad as president of ACE, said in a statement, “As ACE’s 12th president and first female president, Molly spearheaded a wide range of initiatives aimed at advancing the Council’s historic mission of leadership and advocacy, improving access to postsecondary education, and enabling colleges and universities to anticipate and respond in innovative ways to an evolving higher education landscape … Molly was a friend, colleague, and mentor to so many of us throughout the higher education community.”
James B. Milliken, chancellor of the University of Texas system, worked with Broad in North Carolina and led the ACE board during part of her time there. “She was an extremely talented, energetic, and passionate leader who accomplished so much during her presidency at UNC and other universities across the country, and later for all American higher education during her time at ACE,” Milliken said in a statement. “Molly was a thoughtful and effective leader whose values and service were a model for all who knew her.”