Dr. Judy Bonner reflects on her year as UA's first female president

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) A year after becoming president of the University of Alabama, Judy Bonner has guided the institution through record-breaking growth, the death of Athletics Director Mal Moore, and the integration of traditionally white sororities.

Bonner, the university's first female president, reflected on that year Wednesday in a speech to the faculty and staff and outlined goals for the future.

Faculty Senate President Steve Miller said it has been a challenging first year, but in her short time, Bonner, 66, has had as much impact on the university as football coach Nick Saban.

"She is a great president," Miller said.

Alabama's board of trustees quickly selected Bonner a year ago after the abrupt departure of President Guy Bailey. She had a long history at Alabama, earning two degrees and holding a variety of administrative posts, including provost and executive vice president. Her compensation for what she called "the best job on campus" includes an annual salary of $535,000, a $105,000 performance incentive and a $12,000 auto allowance.

Her first year included big events that touched on all aspects of campus life.

In March, the university's longtime athletic director, Mal Moore, stepped down and then died 10 days later. He was replaced by Bill Battle, whose ties to the university go back to playing for legendary football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant.

She guided the university through the 50th anniversary remembrance of Gov. George C. Wallace's failed effort to prevent integration of the university, and she used it to showcase changes in the university and the state.

In August, she presided over record growth, with 34,852 students enrolling for the fall semester, a 3.7 percent increase from the prior year for the biggest student body of any university campus in the state.

The same month, her brother, Jo Bonner, resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives to work for the three-campus University of Alabama System.

Her biggest challenge came in September when the campus newspaper, The Crimson White, exposed discrimination by some traditionally white sororities and how the step granddaughter of an African-American trustee got passed over for membership.

Bonner quietly met with sorority members and their alumni and extended the period for joining sororities. On Oct. 15, she announced that 14 African-American women had joined traditionally white sororities. Now that number is up to 20.

"When everyone exhibits respect, we are a stronger Bama," she told the faculty and staff Wednesday.

The Faculty Senate president said Bonner approaches every challenge with a goal of doing what's best for the university. "She's done more in the social arena in her short time here than has happened in 50 years," he said.

Looking ahead, Bonner said she wants to see the graduate school enrollment grow like the undergraduate enrollment has done, and she wants to improve on the 68 percent of undergraduates who get their degrees within six years.

"We will focus more sharply on a culture of success," she said.

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