- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Dolores R. Spikes, former president of Southern University and A&M; College System, died Monday after fighting a long illness, a university official said. She was 78.

Ed Pratt, a university spokesman, said Spikes was appointed president of Southern University system in Louisiana in 1988 and became the first woman in the United States to head a university system.

Spikes also was president of the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore from 1996 until 2001.

Pratt said she died of natural causes following a long illness. She was an alumna of Southern University, obtaining a bachelor’s degree from the college in mathematics in 1957.

In 1987 she was appointed a board member of Harvard University’s Institute of Educational Management and in 1994 President Bill Clinton named Spikes an adviser on historically black colleges and universities. She also served as the vice chair of the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities.

“She was a devout daughter of Southern University who became a trailblazing giant in higher education in Louisiana and the nation,” said Ronald Mason Jr., the Southern University System president. Mason said she had a “sharp intellect” and acted as “a mentor and friend to me and others in the higher education community.”

Flandus McClinton Jr., the acting Southern chancellor, said, “She will be missed, but her legacy will live on. Southern University has truly lost a giant.”

She earned a master’s degree in mathematics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and in 1971 became the first black person to obtain a doctorate in mathematics from Louisiana State University.

Arrangements are pending.

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