portrait of president emerita claire sterk

Claire E. Sterk


A Legacy of Compassion and Resolve

Claire E. Sterk made history as Emory’s first woman president and advanced the university’s commitment to justice and humanity.

That commitment has guided Sterk throughout her career in higher education, from her groundbreaking work as a researcher and teacher to her service as provost and president of Emory University.

She leaves behind a legacy of compassion and resolve that is palpable through all of her achievements. 

Read more about her legacy


A forward-thinking, innovative higher education leader, Claire Sterk made significant gains for the university during her tenure as president.

She helped move Emory from a diverse community to a more inclusive one, by expanding opportunities for campus discourse, supporting diversity in undergraduate recruitment, and appointing both a chief diversity officer and a university ombudsperson.

She engaged globally with Emory's many communities—in our neighborhood and across the world. Her leadership is seen in the strengthened bonds between Emory and the city of Atlanta and an historic annexation. It is seen in the $14.8 billion impact the university has upon the region's economy and its new status as the region's largest employer. Emory has continued as a leader in health care as well, with national and global advances to help end HIV transmission and the spread of diabetes, curtail the US opioid epidemic, and most recently to develop and test new antiviral compounds that could help treat COVID-19.

During Sterk's tenure, the university not only received historic levels of research funding but also its largest gift to date—$400 million from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation to build a new Winship Cancer Institute Tower in Midtown and a new Health Sciences Research Building on Emory's main campus. Last year, the O. Wayne Rollins Foundation also pledged $65 million toward a third Rollins School of Public Health building on Emory's Atlanta campus.

She also helped open a new Emory Student Center, supported the restoration of Convocation Hall, invested in elevating student success, and oversaw work on a new university master plan, which undergirds her One Emory goals—enhancing connectivity and institutional identity, fostering an unparalleled undergraduate experience, advancing research growth and partnerships, engaging the greater Atlanta community, and promoting stewardship. As the primary architect for the One Emory Strategic Framework, Sterk has helped position the university for future growth with both ambition and pragmatism.


Sterk has been a member of the Emory community since 1995, when she was appointed to the faculty of the Rollins School of Public Health. During her tenure at Emory, she has served as the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Public Health, chair of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, associate dean for research, and senior vice provost for academic affairs. She was named provost and executive vice president for academic affairs in 2013.

Her primary research interests are addiction, mental health, and HIV/AIDS, with a focus on community-based interventions. She is a leading international figure in the fields of public health and anthropology and the author of three books and more than 100 articles and book chapters. 

View her CV

Thought Leadership


These opinion pieces were published by President Emerita Sterk when she was president.

Conversations with Claire

This in-depth and in-person Q&A video series features President Emerita Sterk and notable public figures.


Claire E. Sterk

Emory University President Emerita
Charles Howard Candler Professor of Public Health