Doretha J. Spells first earned a Bachelor of Business Administration, cum laude, from South Carolina State University in 1976, followed by a Master of Business Administration from Tennessee Tech University in 1980. First working for a local housing authority in 1976, she joined Hampton University in 1980 as a loan officer. From there, she rose to staff accountant for administration in 1981, senior staff accountant for financial accounting in 1984, payroll officer in 1986, senior staff accountant for FAS and grants in 1987 and associate comptroller for financial records in 1989. In 1992, Ms. Spells became the assistant vice president for financial records, which she followed with a period as comptroller and associate vice president of business affairs.
Since 2001, Ms. Spells has served as the treasurer, vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer for Hampton University, roles that see her responsible for all the financial matters within the university down to the university’s bookstore. Her duties encompass maintaining their $200 million operating budget and managing the $400 million in endowment funds they receive. She has also contributed her skills to the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute and the university’s administration leadership team with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. To keep abreast of developments in her field, she maintains professional affiliation with the Institute of Management Accountants, the National Association of College and University Business Officers, and many others.
Furthermore, Ms. Spells is an active member of her community and has donated her time as a Sunday school teacher at the New Beech Grove Baptist Church. She has also served on the boards of various local organizations, including the YMCA of the Virginia Peninsulas, the Hampton Jazz Festival, and the Virginia Educators Credit Union, among others. Her civic efforts were recognized with a Humanitarian Award from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities in 2013 and the Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major for Justice Award in 2012. Ms. Spells was also recognized by the Tidewater Peninsula Baptist Association in 2011 and has twice been named the Baptist Union Teacher of the Year, first in 2005 and again in 2015.
Attributing much of her success to the people who have supported her over the years, Ms. Spells was featured as one of the Coastal Virginia Business Magazine’s “Leading Ladies” in 2018. Previously, she had qualified as a finalist for the Virginia Business CFO Award in 2012 and been presented with the Financial Executive Award by the Virginia chapter of the Institute of Management Accountants in 2002. Above everything, Ms. Spells hopes to leave Hampton University better than she found it as she looks toward her eventual retirement, though she notes she doesn’t want that to be the end of her involvement in higher education.