Rice University administrator Carol Quillen will become the first female president of Davidson College on Aug. 1.
Quillen, who was appointed the college's 18th president last week, will fill the vacancy left by Tom Ross, who stepped down as president in December to become the president of the University of North Carolina system.
John Kuykendall, who was the college president in the 1980s and 1990s, served in the interim.
Colleagues at Rice University described Quillen's departure as a huge loss.
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"Carol was one of those teachers who can transform a classroom into an intellectual adventure," said Peter Caldwell, a professor in the department of history at Rice.
Allen Matusow, the history professor who hired Quillen in 1989, said she impressed the department with her genuineness.
During the interview, she knew who everyone in the department was and what they were working on, he said.
"She has a gift for interpersonal relations. She has this intuitive understanding of people," he said.
Quillen is the first non-Davidson graduate to be appointed president since John Cunningham in 1941.
Matusow said Quillen's years at Rice have prepared her well for the presidency of a private college.
"Davidson has made an inspired choice of a new, transformational leader," said Rice University Provost George McLendon. "She will be missed, but she leaves a remarkable legacy."