When Alecia DeCoudreaux takes the reins at Mills College this summer, she will be the 13th president since the school was founded more than a century and a half ago.
DeCoudreaux, a former Eli Lilly and Co. executive, will also become the first African-American woman to lead Mills since it opened in 1852.
The former seminary moved to its current East Oakland location in 1871. The school is still restricted to women at the undergraduate level. Men are admitted only to the graduate and international programs. The outgoing president, Janet Holmgren, came to Mills in 1991, after students and staff waged a battle to keep Mills from becoming a coed school.
DeCoudreaux said she wants to continue the work that Holmgren began and described her own selection after 30 years in the corporate world as a "lifelong dream come true."
That dream began for the 56-year-old Chicago native at Wellesley College -- one of the nation's few remaining all-women colleges.
She graduated in 1976 and earned a law degree from the Indiana University School of Law at Bloomington in 1978. She then went on to work for a private law firm in San Francisco. She joined Advanced Cardiovascular Systems Inc., a former Lilly subsidiary in Santa Clara, in 1987. DeCoudreaux was named vice president and general counsel of Lilly in December 2005. She has been secretary and deputy general counsel of the pharmaceutical giant since 1999.