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Prominent Higher Education Leader, Alumna Molly Corbett Broad ’62, H’09 Remembered

January 6, 2023

SU News

Molly Corbett Broad ’62, H’09, a Syracuse University alumna who became a nationally renowned higher education leader and advocate, died Jan. 2. She was 81. A memorial service to celebrate her life and legacy will be held in the coming weeks.

Molly Corbett Broad
Molly Corbett Broad

A native of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Broad earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences in 1962. She went on to earn a master’s degree in economics at The Ohio State University before returning to Syracuse where she began her career in higher education administration.

“Molly was an extraordinary higher education leader, colleague, alumna and friend of Syracuse University,” says Chancellor Kent Syverud. “She was generous with her time and knowledge, often sharing her experience and wise counsel with me over the years. Many institutions benefited from her talent, leadership and vision. Most significant are the countless ways Molly impacted the people fortunate to know her. Students, faculty, staff and administrators learned from her, respected her and achieved great things thanks to her.”

Broad, a longtime member of the Syracuse community—spanning the 1970s and 80s— held a succession of administrative posts from 1971-85, including vice president for government and corporate relations, director of institutional research and manager in the Office of Budget and Planning. In 1976, she took a one-year leave of absence to serve as deputy director of the New York State Commission on the Future of Postsecondary Education.

“I learned many things from Molly,” says David M. Van Slyke, dean of the Maxwell School. “The most important was that the future of higher education is not going to be confined to place-based instruction. Maxwell must be ambitious in delivering an interdisciplinary policy education rooted in a commitment to engaged citizenship through different mechanisms. We must do more to reach a broad range of students that will not be physically pursuing their education in Syracuse, New York. I’m grateful for her leadership, care and generosity and for the extensive support the Broad family has provided Syracuse University and the Maxwell School.”

After leaving Syracuse, Broad served as chief executive officer for Arizona’s university system from 1985-92. She moved on to the California State University system, where she served as senior vice chancellor for administration and finance from 1992-93 and as executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer from 1993-97.

Broad was president and chancellor of the 16-campus University of North Carolina (UNC) system from 1997-2006, the first woman and non-North Carolina native in that role. As UNC’s chief executive officer, she was responsible for managing the affairs and executing the policies of the university and representing it to the North Carolina General Assembly, state officials, the federal government and other key constituencies.

She led UNC through a period of unprecedented enrollment growth. Due in large part to the success of the university’s Focused Growth Initiative, minority enrollment grew at more than double the rate of the overall student body during her tenure, and special state funding allowed for significant academic and operating improvements at the system’s historically minority campuses. She also championed the creation of a need-based financial aid program for in-state undergraduates and the creation of the College Foundation of North Carolina. She also served as a professor in the School of Government at UNC Chapel Hill.

Molly Corbett Broad and Chancellor Kent Syverud
Molly Corbett Broad and Chancellor Kent Syverud at Orange Central in 2015

In May 2008, Broad became the 12th president of the American Council on Education (ACE) and the first woman to lead the organization since its founding in 1918. She led the organization until 2017.

“Molly Corbett Broad was a pathbreaking and innovative higher education leader whose work made a profound impact on thousands of students at the institutions she served and all of American higher education,” says ACE President Ted Mitchell. “Molly spearheaded a wide range of initiatives aimed at advancing the Council’s historic mission of leadership and advocacy, improving access to postsecondary education, and enabling colleges and universities to anticipate and respond in innovative ways to an evolving higher education landscape.”

Broad wrote and spoke widely on strategic planning for higher education, K-16 partnerships, information technology, globalization and biotechnology. She held seats on the boards of PBS and the Parsons Corp. She was past chair of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC), past chair of the Internet 2 board of trustees and past president of the International Council for Distance Education.

She was a longtime member of the Maxwell School Advisory Board. She received the George Arents Pioneer Medal, the University’s highest alumni honor, in 1999 and an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University in 2009. She received the Melvin A. Eggers Senior Alumni Award in 2015.

Broad was predeceased by her husband, Syracuse native and fellow alumnus Robert Broad ’60, in 2020. She is survived by her two sons, Robert Jr. and Matthew. Her grandson, William, is a current Syracuse University student in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

A scholarship fund has been established in her honor. Those interested in contributing to the Molly Corbett Broad ’62, H’09 Washington, D.C. Experiential Learning Fund can visit the Syracuse University giving site. Donations can also be sent to the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, 200 Eggers Hall, Syracuse, NY 13244.

By Kelly Homan Rodoski

Published in the Spring 2023 issue of the Maxwell Perspective

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200 Eggers Hall