Office of the President

Rita Bornstein

13th President (1990-2004)

Rita Bornstein

In 2012, Bornstein received CASE’s E. Burr Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award.

About Rita Bornstein

Rita Bornstein served as 13th president of Rollins College from 1990 to 2004, the first woman to hold that office. In 2001, she was named to the George D. and Harriet W. Cornell Chair of Distinguished Presidential Leadership when Rollins received a $10-million gift for the first endowment of a college presidency in the nation. At the conclusion of her 14-year presidency, she was named president emerita and appointed to the George D. and Harriet W. Cornell Chair of Philanthropy and Leadership Development.


Under Bornstein's leadership, Rollins focused on strengthening its commitment to excellence, innovation, and community. Standards were raised for faculty evaluation, student selectivity, and all aspects of administration. Average SAT scores for entering Arts & Sciences students rose more than 65 points and Rollins' place in U.S. News & World Report's annual rankings of "America's Best Colleges" climbed from No. 6 regional university in the South to No. No. 1 in 2004. Innovation was encouraged and rewarded, and programs were added in film studies, international business, and sustainable development, as well as the signature Rollins College Conference for first-year students. The College's commitment to building strong communities was enhanced through programs of intellectual discourse, civic engagement, international study, and service learning.

In 1997, Rollins reaffirmed its role as a leader in the national conversation on liberal education, hosting key educators for a conference entitled The Rollins Colloquy Toward a Pragmatic Liberal Education: The Curriculum of the Twenty-First Century. The resulting book, Education and Democracy: Re-imagining Liberal Learning, published by The College Board, remains an important document in the conversation about the liberal arts curriculum.

Bornstein also oversaw Rollins' most ambitious fundraising effort. Widely considered to have transformed the College, The Campaign For Rollins secured $160.2 million, providing support for academic programs, scholarships, faculty, and facilities, and significantly strengthening the College's financial health. Thanks to the generosity of donors, including the largest gift in Rollins' history—alumnus George Cornell's bequest of more than $105 million—and astute financial management, the College's endowment more than quintupled during Bornstein's presidency.

Throughout her presidency, Bornstein devoted considerable attention to the quality of the teach-and-learning experience, establishing and awarding 16 new endowed chairs. She is also credited with Rollins' largest "building boom" since the 1960s. During her tenure, the College added, expanded, or renovated 25 facilities.

A native of New York City and a long-time Florida resident, Bornstein earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees in English literature from Florida Atlantic University and was awarded the Ph.D. in educational leadership from the University of Miami. 

In addition to teaching and administration in both high school and college, Bornstein’s career includes directing the U.S. Office of Education Technical Assistance Center at the University of Miami to assist schools and colleges to implement Title IX and gender equity.  Before assuming the presidency of Rollins College in 1990, she was vice president at the University of Miami, where she led what was then one of the largest and most successful fundraising campaigns in the history of American higher education.

Bornstein regularly consults on issues of leadership, governance, and fundraising in the nonprofit sector. She is also the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters and four books, including Legitimacy in the Academic Presidency: From Entrance to Exit (2003), Succession Planning for the Higher Education Presidency (2010), and Fundraising Advice for College and University Presidents: An Insider's Guide (2011). She has addressed a variety of audiences throughout the country and her numerous publications reflect her wide range of interests. They include such topics as "Transforming Institutions Through Shared Governance"; "Promoting Civil Discourse on Campus"; "Leadership, Money, and Mischief"; "The Nature and Nurture of Presidents"; "Redefining Presidential Leadership in the 21st Century"; and "The College President as Public Intellectual."

Bornstein is a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, past chair of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Board of Trustees, past president of the Southern University Conference, and past chair of the Associated Colleges of the South and the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida. She also served on the Executive Council of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the boards of the American Council on Education and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, chairing its Government Relations Committee. She is a past director of Tupperware Brands Corporation; Barnett Banks, Inc.; and NationsBank Corporation.

The recipient of honorary doctorates from Florida Atlantic University, the University of Central Florida, and Rollins College, she has received CASE's E. Burr Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award, the Institute for Charitable Giving's Laureate for Lifetime Achievement in Fundraising, and the Henry A. Rosso Award for Lifetime Achievement in Ethical Fund Raising from The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Bornstein's numerous recognitions include the first CASE District III Chief Executive Leadership Award, the Jewish National Fund's Tree of Life Award, the University of Miami Faculty Senate's James W. McLamore Outstanding Service Award, and selection as a Mid-Florida Junior Achievement Hall of Fame Laureate. On the conclusion of her 14-year presidency of Rollins College, the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce named her Citizen of the Decade. She has remained active in the Winter Park/Orlando community, serving on the Boards of Directors of United Arts of Central Florida and the Dr. P. Phillips Orlando Performing Arts Center.

Bornstein may be contacted at


Inauguration Address (April 1991)

Read Speech (PDF)

The Campaign For Rollins Finale (October 2001)

Read Speech (PDF)

Commencement 2004 (May 2004)

Read Speech (PDF)

University of South Florida Commencement 2005 (May 2005)

Read Speech (PDF)

Curriculum Vitae


  • President Emerita, Rollins College , 2004-.
  • George D. and Harriet W. Cornell Professor of Philanthropy and Leadership Development, Rollins College , 2004-.
  • President and Professor of Education, Rollins College, 1990-2004.
  • George D. and Harriet W. Cornell Professor of Distinguished Presidential Leadership, Rollins College, 2001-04.
  • Graduate Faculty, The Union Institute, 1989-91.
  • Vice President for Development and Research Professor of Education, University of Miami, 1985-90.
  • Co-Principal Investigator, Lilly Endowment Grant, "Strengthening the Occupation of University Development," 1988-90.
  • Associate Vice President for Development, University of Miami, 1982-85.
  • Director, Foundation and Corporate Relations, University of Miami, 1981-82.
  • Adjunct Professor of Education, University of Miami, 1976-85.
  • Director, National Sex Equity Demonstration Project, (U.S. Office of Education) University of Miami, 1979-82.
  • Director, Southeast Sex Desegregation Assistance Center, (U.S. Office of Education) University of Miami, 1979-81.
  • Field Director - Florida and Georgia, School Desegregation Consulting Center, (U.S. Office of Education) University of Miami, 1975-79.
  • Chair and Teacher, Department of English, North Miami Beach High School, 1973-74.
  • Chief Administrator, School Within a School, and English Teacher, North Miami Beach High School, 1971-73.

Rita Bornstein Curriculum Vitae (PDF)