Diana Chapman Walsh, PhD, is president emerita of Wellesley College, one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges. The fourth alumna to lead her alma mater, she served as Wellesley’s 12th president from 1993-2007. Walsh received an honorary doctor of science degree in 2014.
Furthering the presence of her alma mater
During Dr. Walsh’s tenure, the college undertook a number of new initiatives, including a curriculum revision and an expansion of programs in global education, internships and service learning, and interdisciplinary teaching and learning.
Under her leadership, applications to Wellesley increased 42 percent, the endowment grew from $485 million to more than $1.6 billion, and a record-setting capital campaign boosted the financial aid endowment by $90 million.
Also, under her leadership, new centers for media and technology, social sciences, the humanities, and religious and spiritual life were launched, and the trustees approved a comprehensive campus master plan in 1998, the first since 1921, and implemented major landscape restoration projects across the campus.
Wellesley College, where she earned an English degree in 1966, renamed its Alumnae Hall the Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall in her honor in 2010.
A leading expert in public health policy and in the prevention of illness, she earned a master’s degree in journalism in 1971 from Boston University and a doctorate in health policy from Boston’s University Professors Program in 1983.
Before assuming the Wellesley presidency, Dr. Walsh was the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, where she chaired the Department of Health and Social Behavior.
She reinvigorated that department and founded the Program on Society and Health. Prior to joining the Harvard faculty, she was at Boston University as a University Professor and professor of social and behavioral sciences in the School of Public Health.
While at Boston University, Dr. Walsh co-directed a Center for Industry and Health Care at the Health Policy Institute and published studies on alcoholism treatment, tobacco and alcohol policy, illness prevention and health promotion, social factors influencing health and workplace health policy.
Leading discussions on public health policy and education
Today, Dr. Walsh serves on the National Council of Washington University’s Institute for Public Health.
“Dr. Walsh has brought enormous insight and experience in public health research and policy strategies as we discussed the development of our education and research programs from the first of our National Council meetings and in separate meetings with faculty members,” said Graham A. Colditz, PhD, chief of the Division of Public Health Sciences in the Department of Surgery and deputy director of the Institute for Public Health.
Dr. Walsh is also a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Corporation and of its executive committee. She is vice chair and former chair of the board of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and serves on the governing boards of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and the Mind and Life Institute.
She was a director and executive committee member of the State Street Corporation, a trustee of Amherst College and chair of the board of the Consortium on Financing Higher Education.
A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa, and recipient of six honorary degrees, she writes, speaks and consults regularly on a range of issues related to higher education, health and leadership.
As a Kellogg National Fellow from 1987 to 1990, Dr. Walsh traveled throughout the United States and abroad studying workplace democracy and principles of leadership and writing poetry.
She has written, edited and co-edited some 60 articles and fourteen books, including a study of the practice of medicine within corporations, titled Corporate Physicians: Between Medicine and Management, Yale University Press, 1987.
She co-edited Society and Health, Oxford University Press, 1995, which analyzed social and cultural determinants of health and illness.
Dr. Walsh resides in Brookline, Massachusetts, with her husband Christopher T. Walsh, formerly the Hamilton Kuhn Professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Biological Chemistry at Harvard Medical School. Their daughter, Allison W. Kurian, MD, is an oncologist and mother of their five-year-old grandson, Sean.