Molly Corbett Broad: A Trailblazing Academic Administrator

Molly Corbett Broad (February 22, 1941 – January 2, 2023) was a distinguished American academic administrator who left an indelible mark on higher education. Her career spanned leadership roles in prestigious institutions, and her contributions to academia were both influential and lasting.

Early Life and Education

Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on February 22, 1941, Molly Corbett was the daughter of Stanley A. Corbett and Margaret (née Kelly) Corbett, both esteemed public school teachers. Her upbringing instilled in her a strong foundation for education and leadership. Molly Corbett pursued her higher education at Syracuse University, where she received a General Motors Scholarship. She excelled as a student and was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. In 1962, she graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors and a baccalaureate degree in economics from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Molly Corbett maintained close ties with Syracuse University throughout her life. She served as a dedicated member of the Maxwell School Advisory Board and received numerous honors from her alma mater, including the prestigious George Arents Pioneer Medal (1999), an honorary doctor of laws degree (2009), and the Melvin A. Eggers Senior Alumni Award (2015). Her commitment to education and Syracuse University’s mission was unwavering. She furthered her academic journey by earning a master’s degree in economics from Ohio State University.

Career in University Administration

Molly Corbett Broad’s illustrious career in university administration began at Syracuse University, where she held several key positions from 1971 to 1985. Her roles included Manager of the Office of Budget and Planning, Director of Institutional Research, and Vice President for Government and Corporate Relations. In 1976, she took on the role of Director of the New York State Commission on the Future of Postsecondary Education.

Her journey continued as she assumed the position of Chief Executive Officer for the Arizona University System from 1985 to 1992. Subsequently, she joined the California State University System, where she served as Senior Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance from 1992 to 1993 and later as Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer from 1993 to 1997.

One of the highlights of Molly Corbett Broad’s career was her tenure as the third President of the University of North Carolina system, a position she held from 1997 to 2006. During her remarkable leadership, she achieved several milestones, including overseeing a historic $3.1 billion higher education bond and pioneering the state’s inaugural need-based scholarship program. She was a strong advocate for increasing minority enrollment, enhancing accessibility to higher education through technology, and granting greater autonomy to individual campuses within the UNC System. Molly Corbett Broad also challenged the tradition of low tuition costs, raising tuition while concurrently expanding financial aid. Her innovative approach extended to seeking projects that could generate additional funding for the UNC System and stimulate the state’s economy.

Following her tenure in North Carolina, she assumed the position of President of the American Council on Education on January 15, 2008. Her appointment was historic, as she became the first woman to lead the organization since its founding in 1918. Molly Corbett Broad left an indelible mark during her presidency, championing the cause of education until her departure on October 31, 2017.

Even after her formal roles in academia, Molly Corbett Broad remained engaged in the educational landscape. From 2018, she served as a partner at RIDGE-LANE LP’s Education Practice. Her commitment to the advancement of education extended to positions on the TIAA-CREF Board of Overseers and the PBS Board of Directors. She also held the esteemed role of chair at the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, a prominent research, policy, and advocacy organization.

Personal Life and Passing

Molly Corbett Broad’s personal life was intertwined with her academic journey. She met her husband, Robert W. Broad, during her years at Syracuse University, and they married in 1962. Their union was blessed with two adult sons. Tragically, Robert W. Broad passed away in 2020, leaving a void in her life.

On January 2, 2023, Molly Corbett Broad peacefully passed away at the age of 81. Her remarkable contributions to academia, her pioneering spirit, and her unwavering dedication to education will forever be celebrated and remembered as an integral part of her enduring legacy.