Dr. Irma McClaurin was recently named the new president of Shaw University, becoming the first woman to lead the oldest historically Black college in the South.

The announcement came Sept.9 on the campus of the 145-year-old institution.

“I am honored and privileged to have this opportunity to lead an institution of Shaw’s caliber, with its deep history and rich tradition of education and scholarship,” McClaurin said in a statement. “With the support and collaboration of Shaw’s illustrious trustees and alumni, its hopeful student body, its committed faculty and staff, and the larger Raleigh community, I have no doubt we will be successful.”

McClaurin is the university’s fifteenth president . Her appointment came after former president Clarence Newsome announced last summer that he was taking a one-year sabbatical, according to WTVD in Raleigh, N.C.

“Although it was not an easy decision, I believe that it is the best course of action for me and the school,” Newsome said in a 2009 interview. The school was reportedly $20 million in debt at the time.

Shortly after that announcement, attorney Willie E. Gary, Chairman of the Shaw University Board of Trustees announced that Newsome would not return and the university would seek new leadership. Dr. Dorothy Cowser Yancy was named interim president while the school sought a permanent replacement.

According to The (Raleigh) News Observer, McClaurin’s reception was filled with applause and cheers of excitement. McClaurin was previously a noted fundraiser with the Ford Foundation.

“It is with the utmost respect and admiration that I welcome Dr. McClaurin to the Shaw University family,” Gary said. “I am confident that under the leadership of Dr. McClaurin, our esteemed university will continue to be a beacon of light and opportunity for the thousands of young men and women who value education and hope to become productive citizens.”

McClaurin brings a 30-year career as an activist anthropologist, teacher, writer, poet, and higher education administrator to her new position. She was formerly the associate vice president for System Academic Administration at the University of Minnesota. The author and editor has published three books, and her poetry has appeared in magazines and anthologies worldwide. McClaurin holds a Masters and Ph.D in cultural anthropology from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.