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Dr. Dolores Margaret Richard Spikes. (Photo www.umes.edu)

Dr. Dolores Margaret Richard Spikes, the first female president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, died June 1, the university announced. She was 78.

Spikes, a trailblazer throughout her lifetime, was born Aug. 24, 1936 in Baton Rouge, La. Her parents’ high value on education rubbed off on her and she became one of the first African-American women in the nation to receive a doctorate in mathematics, which she earned from Louisiana State University. Spikes later went on to head her alma mater in 1988 and became the first woman to head a public college in Louisiana.

During this time period, she was named “one of the most influential Black women in America” by Ebony magazine Also, President Bill Clinton appointed her to his board of advisors on HBCUs.

In 1997, she became UMES’ 11th president and was the first female president to head the institution. Spikes’ arrival was at a time when the university had a pair of major construction projects on its plate. The university’s Hytche Athletic Center debuted in 1998, while the new Student Services Center opened shortly thereafter.

Spikes stepped down for health reasons in 2001 and prior to her departure, she spoke on the university’s challenges with UMES Magazine.

“Whoever succeeds me must have the tenacity to keep it going,” she said. “We can only stop when…people are convinced that they have not ever done right by this institution.”

UMES issued a statement after Spikes’ death, saying “she laid the ground work for the institution to evolve into the 21st century Black institution it has become.”

“She will be remembered at this university as a leader who drew on the wisdom and experience she gained as the president of her Alma matter, Southern University and the grace that comes with being a native of the South,” the statement read.

Southern University’s current president, Ronald Mason, took to Twitter June 1 to offer his condolences.

“SU System family deeply saddened by the death of former SU System President Dolores Spikes who passed away today—she was a friend & mentor,” Mason’s tweet read.