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New Hamline president hailed as a 'key player' in fight against inequality

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It was an historic occasion on Friday for Minnesota's oldest university, as it celebrated the appointment of its first African-American and second female president.

Dr. Fayneese Miller took over her role as the 20th president of St. Paul's Hamline University three months ago, but was officially installed at a ceremony attended by Twin Cities dignitaries at Hutton Arena.

The Pioneer Press reports that St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman referred to Miller as a "key player" in the continued battle to reduce racial disparity in the city, noting the university's record of "commitment to social justice, to equality, to accessibility."

In her speech, Miller said she would stick to Hamline's liberal arts mission, and highlighted her aim to foster positive community links between students from diverse backgrounds, noting "proximity does not bring about positive relationship."

The newspaper notes that the ceremony featured a taped message from Ruth Simmons, who became the first black president of an Ivy League college at Brown in 2000, who told Miller to "not dwell on her race and sex," saying it's "enough to walk this path ... faithfully and honorably."

Also in attendance at the ceremony was Gov. Mark Dayton, who proclaimed Friday "Hamline University President Dr. Fayneese Miller Day" in Minnesota, with U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum also among the speakers, according to a Hamline press release.

Hamline notes that Miller has been a groundbreaking figure in higher education, who after becoming the first African American woman to earn a PhD from Texas Christian University, went on to become the first to be promoted to associate professor with tenure at Brown University.

She completed her post-doctoral work, in applied psychology, at Yale University.

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