Jane K. Fernandes is the ninth president of Guilford College and the first deaf woman to lead an American college or university. Prior to Guilford, Jane served as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
Recognized as one of the 20 most interesting college presidents by The Best Schools and the recipient of the General Foundation of Women’s Clubs of North Carolina’s Women of Achievement award, Jane is leading Guilford College through curricular and administrative innovation to become further distinguished as a “college of excellence known for doing a few things splendidly.”
A native of Worcester, Mass., Jane is a graduate of Trinity College in Connecticut, where she earned her B.A. in French and comparative literature, and the University of Iowa, where she earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in comparative literature. Born deaf to a deaf mother and hearing father, she learned American Sign Language (ASL) as a graduate student.
Jane’s career took her first to Boston as acting director of American Sign Language Programs at Northeastern University and then to Washington, D.C., as chair of the Sign Communication Department at Gallaudet University. Moving to Hawaii, she became the founding coordinator of the University of Hawaii’s Sign Language/English Interpreter Training Program and later, director of the Hawaii Center for the Deaf and Blind.
She returned to Gallaudet as vice president of the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center in 1995 and served as provost of the university 2000-06. After her leadership roles at Gallaudet, she became a senior fellow at the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity & Inclusion Institute at Bennett College in Greensboro, a post she held from 2007-11.
Jane’s husband, Jim, is an emeritus professor at Gallaudet. They have two children: Sean, a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill who recently earned a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, and Erin, a graduate of Smith College, who will soon begin her master’s degree in information sciences at UNC Chapel Hill.