The University Record, April 2, 2001

‘Stand up for yourself,’ renowned educator urges women

By Leslie Harding
News and Information Services

“I will not be denied my place, nor put in my place,” says Dolores Cross, speaking at a national conference on gender inequity in higher education.

The first female president of Morris Brown University was just one of many women educators participating in a March 26 conference, hosted by the Center for the Education of Women, called “Bridging Gender Divides: Educational Access, Leadership and Technology.”

Cross is no stranger to inequalities in education, the workplace and everyday life. Growing up with only one parent and often homeless, Cross beat the odds to earn her B.S. in elementary education at Seton Hall University, an M.S. from Hofstra University and a Ph.D. in education from the U-M. Cross says, “I’ve been affected but not consumed by poverty, racism and sexism.”

She credits her accomplishments to constructive academic intervention, committed leadership and a supportive environment—the same atmosphere she tries to create in her roles as administrator, educator and mentor.

Cross believes educators are partially responsible for helping women break the glass ceiling in higher education and the workplace. “Silence of my colleagues concerns me the most,” says Cross. She wants educators to speak out about women’s lack of access to post-secondary education because of financial or educational inequalities.

She also wants more women to take control. She feels there are three essential components that will make a difference in any woman’s life: Know who you are, have a vision of what you can achieve, and have the passion and ability to stay the course. She says she’s always remembered the wise words of her grandmother, “Battles won’t end until you stand up for yourself.”

Cross holds numerous administrative positions at universities and associations across the United States and acts as a political advocate. She is the recipient of eight honorary degrees and of the Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award of Women Executives in State Government. In her recent autobiography, Breaking Through the Wall: A Marathoner’s Story, she equates the challenges and struggles of today’s women with her experiences as a marathon runner.

At 60, she recently ran her 19th marathon. At the end of the 26.2 miles, Cross was near exhaustion and had trouble stopping when she crossed the finish line. A man yelled to her, “Hey lady, the race is over.” She responded, “No it’s not. Only I can say when the race is over.”