SOUTH HADLEY — Danielle Ren Holley, noted legal educator and social-justice scholar, will become the 20th president of Mount Holyoke College on July 1. The board of trustees unanimously elected Holley following a thorough and inclusive search process.
Holley is the first Black woman in the 186-year history of Mount Holyoke College to serve as permanent president, and the fourth Black woman in history to lead one of the original Seven Sisters colleges.
Since 2014, Holley has served as dean and professor of law at the Howard University School of Law. She is widely viewed as having renewed Howard’s historically important law school and raised its stature and visibility as a leading educator of social- and racial-justice lawyers.
“In addition to her exceptional leadership and ability to cultivate shared purpose, President-elect Holley brings a strong vision for what Mount Holyoke is and, more importantly, what our college can become. She has a strong track record of strategic growth and innovation, which will serve us well,” said Karena Strella, who chairs the board of trustees. “President-elect Holley is widely recognized for her broad intellectual interests and curiosity, as well as for her rigorous advancement of racial and social justice in the legal field and beyond. We look forward to welcoming her to the Mount Holyoke community, particularly as we continue our work together to create and maintain a culture of belonging and a society that advances the dignity of all.”
Prior to joining the Howard School of Law in 2014, Holley served as distinguished professor for Education Law and associate dean for Academic Affairs at the University of South Carolina. Earlier in her career, she served on the faculty of Hofstra University School of Law and practiced law as an associate at Fulbright & Jaworski in Houston. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School, and she was a law clerk to Judge Carl Stewart on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Holley currently serves as co-chair of the board of directors of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. She also sits on the boards of the Law School Admissions Council and the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science. She is a Liberty Fellow through the Aspen Global Leadership Network and was also a fellow with the American Council of Education at Brown University in 2021-22, and currently serves on the board of the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta.
“It is an understatement to say I am excited to join the vibrant and dynamic Mount Holyoke community; in truth, I am ecstatic and exhilarated,” Holley said. “My personal and professional endeavors reflect my commitment to create educational opportunities for talented and deserving students, including those who may encounter doors that are closed or unwelcome. Mount Holyoke shares this vision — here, I have found students who want to break down barriers and create lasting, equitable change for all, and faculty, staff, and alums dedicated to helping these students strive for a brighter and bolder tomorrow. My own liberal-arts education helped me find my path forward, and what Mount Holyoke gives to its students will stay with them long after they graduate.”