Claire Sterk Emory

Commentary: Emory's new head wants to change school's image

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

Claire Sterk Emory

Newly-named Claire Sterk will be the first woman president of Emory University when she assumes the post on Sept. 1 (Special: Emory University)

Starting in September, Emory University welcomes its first female president, Claire Sterk. She served as Emory’s provost since 2013.

She succeeds Jim Wagner, who has been Emory’s president for 13 years.

When she was being interviewed to be Emory’s new president, Sterk repeatedly brought up a novel idea.

She wants the university to strike a memo of understanding with the city of Atlanta to work on issues critical to the city’s needs.

Officially, Emory is not located in Atlanta, and it is often perceived as an Ivy League institution set apart from the urban problems of poverty and despair.

Sterk wants to change that perception. She would like Emory to play an active role in solving society’s ills.

A native of the Netherlands, Sterk moved to Atlanta in the mid-1980s to become a visiting scientist at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. She worked on the AIDS/HIV epidemic, and later joined the faculty of Georgia State University – teaching public health and anthropology.

One of her areas of focus was witnessing the demolition of the nation’s first public housing project – Techwood Homes – and the area’s redevelopment into a mixed-income community – Centennial Place.

Universities in other cities have taken on the role of helping their surrounding communities, and Sterk believes Emory can be such a university and an example for Atlanta institutions.

Sterk is a refreshing face for our community – one where she has been working in for decades. But now she will be contributing as president of one of our most important universities.

Claire Sterk, we welcome you to your new role.