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Leading Still

Checking in with President Emerita Adrian Tinsley

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[Editor’s note: This is the first of four stories marking Women’s History Month.]

Dr. Adrian Tinsley dedicated much of her academic career to helping women advance as college and university administrators. It should come as no surprise, then, that Tinsley broke the glass ceiling herself by becoming Bridgewater State’s first female president in 1989.

“I tried to use my presidency as best I could to work with other women, and with men, who had the talent and motivation to become leaders in higher education administration,” Tinsley (pictured above on the right with the presidents who followed her) recalled.

That’s far from her only accomplishment during her 13 years at the helm of Bridgewater. Her tenure featured the acquisition of 70 acres on the east side of campus as well as construction of the athletic center that bears her name, the Moakley Center and other buildings.

The Moakley Center, built through a $10 million federal grant secured by the late U.S. Rep. Joseph Moakley (and current President Frederick W. Clark Jr., who worked for him at the time), gave Bridgewater the most advanced technology of any higher education institution in Massachusetts.


“That really gave us a serious leg up on the future of higher education,” Tinsley said.

Tinsley also reorganized academics and focused on making the campus beautiful.

She came into office at a time when Bridgewater needed to improve financially and academically, and she was up to the challenge.

“I certainly understood I was the first woman president and I certainly trust I will not be the last,” she said. “But that was not the biggest thing on my mind.”

After retiring as president, Tinsley lived in Bridgewater and remained involved with higher education, including continuing her work with HERS (Higher Education Resource Services), an organization committed to developing and supporting women leaders.

Now residing in Colorado, Tinsley continues to exercise her mind and body by taking astronomy classes and regularly going to the gym. She follows campus happenings and is pleased to see her successors continue a tradition of excellence.

Tinsley also has advice for Bridgewater’s female students looking to be university presidents or leaders in whatever field they pursue. They, along with men looking to do the same, need to be skilled writers, speakers and listeners. They should also have empathy.

“You can do anything you want to do,” she said. “Just know what you want and keep at it, and with persistence it will happen.” (Story by Brian Benson, University News & Video)

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