Manley, Audrey Forbes 1934–
Audrey Forbes Manley 1934–
Physician, educational administrator
After nearly forty years in the field of medicine, as a pediatric physician, medical faculty, and public health administrator, Audrey Forbes Manley became the eighth president in the 116-year history of Spelman College—a predominantly black, all-girls college in Atlanta Georgia. She is the college’s first alumna president, and succeeds to the position once held by her late husband, Albert E. Manley.
Upon accepting the position of college president on July 1, 1997, Dr. Audrey Manley said in Inside Spelman, “One could say that everything I have done has led me to this day and this moment. It related to my entire background and my life.” This was not always self-evident to Manley, whose distinguished medical career led her away from Spelman after graduating from the college in 1955.
Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Audrey Forbes grew up in a sharecropper’s family. When she was seven, her family moved to Tougaloo, Mississippi, a small college community outside Jackson. The oldest of three daughters, she was picking cotton at age nine, which forced her to grow up quickly. By age 12, she knew she wanted to be a medical doctor and she thought Tougaloo College was her ticket. The college life there rubbed off on her, especially the pomp and circumstance of graduation ceremonies, which she remembered witnessing as early as third grade. Tougaloo College, an historically Black college, would later give her an honorary degree in 1991 (along with Spelman College and Meharry Medical College).
During World War II, her family moved to Chicago, where Manley graduated from Wendall Phillips High School, with a major in music and a voice scholarship from Spelman College in Atlanta. She had a life-changing experience at Spelman, whose motifs were the betterment of Black women and a commitment to excellence—two themes that characterize Manley’s life and work. She majored in biology with a double minor in chemistry and math. There she met, Dr. Albert E. Manley, the first Black president of Spelman College.
Two decades later Albert would become her husband. Dr. Manley, who died in March of 1997, did not live long
At a Glance…
Born Audrey Forbes, March 25, 1934, in Jackson, MS; daughter of Jesse Lee and Ora Lee (Buckhalter) Forbes; married Albert Edward Manley, April 3, 1970 (the late president emeritus, Spelman Coll.; he died March 28,1997); Education: B.A. with honors, Spelman Coll., 1955; M.D. Meharry Medical Coll., 1959; Master of Public Health, John Hopkins Univ., 1987.
Career : pediatrician, Chicago 1960-66; medical pediatrics faculty, Chicago Medical College, 1966-67, Univ. of Illinois, 1965-67, Univ. of Chicago, 1967-69, UC-San Francisco, 1967-69, Emory Univ., Atlanta, 1970-76, Howard Univ., Washington, D.C., 1981; hospital administrator, Chicago, 1967-69 and San Francisco, 1969-70; Commissioned Officer, Public Health Practice & Public Health Services, Dept. of Health and Human Services, 1976-97, with Health Resources and Services Admin., 1981-85, with John Hopkins, 1986-87; Principal Deputy Asst. Secretary for Health, 1987; Asst. U.S. Surgeon General, 1988, Deputy Asst. Secretary of Health, 1989-93; Deputy U.S. Surgeon General, 1994-95, acting U.S. Surgeon General, 1995-97; president, Spelman College, 1997-.
Selected awards : Mary McLeod Bethune award, Nat. Council of Negro Women, 1979; Meritorious Service award, U.S. Public Health Services, 1981; Distinguished Alumni awards, Meharry Medical College, 1989, Spelman College, 1989; Hon. Doctorate in Humane Letters, Tougaloo College, Mississippi, 1990 and Meharry Medical College, Nashville, 1991; Hon. Doctorate in Laws, Spelman College, 1991.
Addresses : President, Spelman College, 350 Spelman Lane SW, Atlanta, GA 30314.
enough to see his wife become the eighth president of Spelman College, but in his book about his tenure as president, A Legacy Continues, he dedicated the book to his wife, calling her, “an exemplar of the Spelman woman.”
Manley graduated from Spelman cum laude and with a full tuition scholarship to Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. After receiving her medical degree in 1959, she completed her residency work at Cook County Children’s Hospital in Chicago, where she became, at age 27, the first African American female to be appointed Chief Resident.
Before going into private practice in pediatrics and neonatology, Manley pursued a more academic career, one that would eventually pave the way for her becoming president of a college. From 1966-76, she accepted various pediatrics and faculty appointments: the Chicago Medical College; the University of Illinois; University of Chicago; the University of California, San Francisco; Emory University, Atlanta; and Howard University.
In 1987, Manley earned a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from Johns Hopkins University, which launched her into her second major career shift as a medical administrator. That year she became the first African American female to be appointed Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, another first for her. Manley continued in the Public Health Service in several capacities with increasing responsibilities: Assistant U.S. Surgeon General, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health, Deputy U.S. Surgeon General, and acting U.S. Surgeon General.
As Assistant Surgeon General (Rear Admiral) in the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health, she was also the first African American female to achieve such a high rank within the public health establishment. But in this role she never lost touch with her roots. Manley directed the National Health Service Corps, consisting of 6500 active-duty commissioned corps officers, who provide the primary care to medically under-served minority communities.
In the capacity as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health, Manley also directed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), plus 18 other program agencies—all of which had a budget of $22 billion and 45,000 employees. As the culmination of her medical career, she was appointed by Secretary of Health Donna Shalala to become the acting U.S. Surgeon General. For two years Manley held that position of our nation’s highest-ranking health professional while the search continued for a permanent replacement for Dr. Jocelyn Elders, who had resigned under duress in 1995.
While in that prestigious office, Manley earned a fighter’s reputation for her tireless campaign to help America “shape up.” In the Surgeon General’s Report of 1994 and again in 1996, she issued a most definitive and provocative “call, to arms” in her fight against flab. Manley declared in the Boston Globe, “Physical inactivity is a serious nationwide health problem.”
Manley has also extended herself on behalf of the poor in areas of neonatal care and teen pregnancy, not only in her early years as a practicing physician, but most recently as a high-ranking medical administrator. A perennial “Who’s Who” honoree, Manley has conducted several international symposiums and given countless national, state and local presentations and appearances (including television and radio) on other public health issues vital to all Americans: smoking, nutrition, aging, AIDS, health hazards in the military—including use of lethal chemicals and biological agents.
On the way to the presidency of Spelman College, Manley has been honored with many awards for her achievements and humanitarian efforts in many fields. In 1979, she was presented the Mary McLeod Bethune Achievement in Government Award by the National Council of Negro Women. A decade later, the National Medical Association awarded her “For Outstanding Leadership and Outspoken Advocacy of Improved Health Care in the Black Community and America.”
She has also won numerous meritorious service awards and professional commendations from her alma mater, from her professional colleagues in medicine, and from the highest offices in government. Manley was commended, in particular, by the Public Health and Services administration in 1986 for “Noteworthy professional contributions, outstanding administrative abilities, and exceptional leadership in coordinating the Agency’s health promotion/disease prevention initiative.”
Despite a most distinguished, 40-year career in medical practice, teaching, and administration, perhaps her best years are yet to come. The Spelman College legacy, so well developed by her late husband, Dr. Albert E. Manley, has been placed in the hands of its most honored alumna. She spoke of her appointment in Jet, “I am deeply honored, delighted and feel extremely privileged to be selected as the eighth President of Spelman College.
Manley has always led by setting the example—from the cotton fields of Mississippi, to the classrooms of major universities, to the boardroom of the U.S. President, and now to the presidency of Spelman College. Her integrity as a role model for the college has been evident, for example, in the way she led a recent alumni-directed fund-raising campaign for the college. In the process, she herself became the college’s biggest alumna donor, contributing the first six-figure gift in the 116-year history of Spelman College.
Money magazine recently ranked Spelman as one of ten “Best Buys” among all liberal arts colleges in the nation. With Audrey Forbes Manley as their new president, Spelman has another “best buy” who will ably extend the Manley legacy well into the 21st millennium. Concerning Spelman’s future, she said in Jet, “In addition to looking forward to meeting the challenges ahead with commitment and dedication, I feel confident that the College will move forward in all areas. I commend the Search committee on the selection process and their level of commitment.”
Manley, Dr. Albert E., A Legacy Continues, University Press of America, 1995.
Boston Globe, July 12, 1996.
Inside Spelman, Summer 1997, p. 1, v.4.
New York Times, April 24, 1997, p. A24, v. 1.
Jet, June 5,1989, p. 16; August 19,1996, p. 62; May 5, 1997, p. 12.
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