Forty Years of Extraordinary Women and a New Warden for Rhodes House

In August of 2018, the Rhodes Trust named Elizabeth Kiss, D.Phil., warden of Rhodes House and the first woman ever to hold this position.
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Forty Years of Extraordinary Women and a New Warden for Rhodes House
Photo by Rhodes House

In August of 2018, The Rhodes Trust named Elizabeth Kiss, D.Phil., warden of Rhodes House. Dr. Kiss, a 1983 Rhodes scholar, is the first woman to hold this position. Her appointment comes on the heels of the 40th Anniversary of Rhodes Women, held at Oxford in September 2017 to celebrate the Rhodes scholar class of 1977, the first to include women.

As warden, Dr. Kiss oversees the global scholarship competition, guides the experience of the scholars while they are in residence, and manages the Trust’s affairs from her office in Rhodes House in Oxford. Dr. Kiss displays the academic rigor, inspired inquiry, and active engagement with humanitarian issues that have characterized so many female Rhodes scholars. She was the first woman at Davidson College to win a Rhodes scholarship. (Davidson did not grant degrees to women until 1972.) Born in 1961 in New York City to parents who fled Hungary during the 1956 revolution and subsequent Soviet crackdown, Dr. Kiss founded an Amnesty International chapter at Davidson when she was a student there.

After earning her D.Phil. in philosophy from Balliol College, University of Oxford, in 1990, Dr. Kiss taught at Randolph-Macon and Deep Springs colleges and at Princeton University. She held research fellowships at The University of Melbourne and Harvard, investigating moral and political philosophy, moral education, human rights, and feminist theory. She was the founding director of Duke University’s Kenan Institute for Ethics and has held leadership positions in many national organizations, including the Climate Leadership Network and the Women’s College Coalition.

In 2006, Dr. Kiss became president of Agnes Scott College, a liberal arts college for women in Atlanta. She gained national recognition for dramatically increasing diversity and enrollment and establishing environmental sustainability on campus, as well as for boosting graduation rates for low-income students and launching a core academic program around global learning and leadership development.

Commenting on the 2019 class of Rhodes scholars, Dr. Kiss said, “Their interests range widely, from genomics to poetry, human rights to nanoparticles. Many have overcome challenging life circumstances, from refugee status to foster care to navigating education as a first-generation college student. All of them demonstrate the power of the human spirit to strive and excel and give me great hope for the future. The Trust’s geographic expansion … enables us to create a community of friendship and shared discovery that brings together young people from all over the world, ensuring that our scholars are equipped to approach the world’s most complex questions with curiosity, a cooperative spirit, and the ability to cross boundaries, challenge stereotypes, and break down walls.”