Little Rock native Carmen Twillie Ambar has been named president of Oberlin College, the first African-American leader of the elite liberal arts college in Ohio.
She’ll start work in the fall. She’s currently president of Cedar Crest College, which she joined after a tenure as vice president and dean of a college at Rutgers University.
The article from Oberlin has a full biography of a remarkable career — undergraduate degree from Georgetown, a law degree from Columbia and a master’s from Princeton. She’s also the mother of triplets.
Timely note: She was governor of Arkansas Girls State, underway this week, in 1985. She writes here of the inspiration she drew from her parents, Manuel and Gwendolyn Twillie, now retired educators. For example:
My father, Manuel Twillie, came from Forrest City, Ark. But that isn’t really true. He grew up on a farm on the outer rim of the tiny town of Colt. The black section. It was called Dark Corner.
Dad would tell us, “Plow to the end of your row.” He had been plowing behind a mule since he was six. My grandfather would remind him and his other brothers, “Plow to the end of your row.” No shortcuts. Everybody had to be accountable for their own row. There’d be more work. Picking cotton. Slaughtering hogs. I remember my father telling me that he’d get an apple, an orange and a few nuts for his Christmas present.
Nothing changes lives and family trajectories more profoundly than a college education. I’ve seen it in my own family. Those “plow to the end of your row” and “stand tall” parents of mine graduated from Philander Smith College in Little Rock. They went on and got advanced degrees. Before long, their children did as well. No more Dark Corner.