Dolores Richard Spikes

Born: August 24, 1936; Birthplace: Baton Rouge




B.S. (1957) in Mathematics from Southern University; M.S. (1958) Mathematics from the University of Illinois


Ph.D. (1971) The Louisiana State University
thesis: Semi-Valuations and Groups of Divisibility; advisor: Jack Ohm
area of degree: commutative ring theory


Dolores Margaret Richard is the daughter of Lawrence Granville Richard and Margaret Patterson Richard. She credits her parents, Lawrence Richard and Margaret Patterson Richard, as the single greatest influence on her life. "My father had a fourth-grade education, but he loved to read. He loved education so much that even after his daughters finished college, he went back to get his GED," she told The Oval Message. Her mother, who had a tenth-grade education, had a similar attitude. "We never talked about whether we were going to college. We always knew we were going, even though my parents didn't know where the money was coming from," Spikes was quoted as saying.

While studying at Southern University, she met fellow mathematics major Hermon Spikes in a class on world literature. Their relationship continued after she graduated with a B.S. in mathematics, summa cum laude, in 1957, and moved to Urbana, Illinois, to pursue an M.S. in mathematics. "While I was away in graduate school at the University of Illinois, Hermon sent me a ring in the mail. We married two weeks after I received the master's degree," Spikes was quoted as saying in The Oval Message. The couple have one daughter, Rhonda, who later followed in her parents' footsteps by graduating from Southern University.

In 1958, Spikes returned to Louisiana, where she accepted a position teaching biology, chemistry, and general science at Mossville High School in Calcasien Parish. Three years later, Spikes joined the faculty of Southern University as an assistant professor of mathematics. Over the next few decades, she moved through the ranks to become an associate professor and finally full professor of mathematics.

During this time, Spikes began her doctoral studies at Louisiana State University--despite the pressures of work, study, marriage, and taking care of a young daughter. "It was a very busy time," she told The Oval Message. "My husband pitched in, but I got very little sleep." After writing a dissertation on "Semi-Valuations and Groups of Divisibility," Spikes earned her Ph.D. in pure mathematics, with a speciality in commutative ring theory, in 1971. She was the first African American, as well as the first Southern University graduate, to receive a doctorate in mathematics from LSU.

During the eighties, Spikes began to move from academic to administrative positions. From 1982 to 1985, she served as assistant to the chancellor for Southern University at Baton Rouge; later, she became executive vice chancellor and vice chancellor for academic affairs. In the late eighties, she served as chancellor for Southern University-Baton Rouge and Southern University-New Orleans. Finally, in 1988, she was appointed president of the Southern University and A&M College System, one of the largest predominantly black public university systems in the United States. As president, Spikes became not only the first female to lead a public college or university in Louisiana, but also the first woman in the United States to head a university system.
For Spikes, the fact that she--a Southern University graduate-- could rise to this prestigious position proved the importance of the college's mission. "Southern (University) represents hope," she was quoted as saying in Black Women in America. "It represents a way to open the doors of America to countless young people who would otherwise be shut out."
Meanwhile, Spikes' leadership in education began to be noticed on a national scale. in 1994, President Bill Clinton named Spikes to his board of advisors on historically black colleges and universities. Two years later, Spikes was named vice chair of the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities, a body charged with defining the direction that public universities should go in the future.

In a press statement issued by the Kellogg Commission, Spikes wrote about the problems facing historically black land-grant colleges-- often called "the 1890s," after the 1890 act that established them. "Together with other historically black colleges and universities, in some southern states they still contribute to the production of almost 50 percent of African American baccalaureates....," she wrote. "If the universe of land-grant institutions faces a crisis, then how much more pronounced is that crisis for the 1890s!"

From 1996 to 2001 Dr. Dolores Spikes was President of the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.

In January 1990, Ebony named her one of the twenty "most influential Black women in America".

from her 1998 inauguration to President of
University of Maryland-Eastern Shore

Reference. [University of Maryland Eastern Shore presidents web page]; [Dr. Dolores Richard-Spikes" (biography),]; [Black Women in America, edited by Darlene Clark, 1993, pp. 1097-8; [The Daily News, (Salisbury, Maryland), October, 21, 1997, p. 5.]; The Oval Message, (UMES alumni magazine), Fall 1997, pp. 2-5; Winter 1997, p. 3]; [Announcement of Kellogg Commission" (press release), January 30, 1996,]; ["Dr. Dolores Richard-Spikes" (biography),]; ["President Clinton names Dr. Dolores Spikes to U.S. Naval Academy Board of Visitors" (press release), March 12, 1997.]

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