Joanne V. Creighton

1996-2010: President of the College; Five College Fortieth Anniversary Professor of English

Known as an effective strategic planner and an impassioned champion of the liberal arts and of women’s education and leadership, Joanne V. Creighton served as President of Mount Holyoke from January 1996 through June 2010. She is a tenured Professor of English at Mount Holyoke.

Under Creighton’s leadership, Mount Holyoke experienced unprecedented growth and transformation. She led a comprehensive and highly consultative planning process that culminated in unanimous faculty and Board of Trustees endorsements of The Plan for Mount Holyoke 2003. That Plan was extraordinarily successful in engendering the renewed strength and vitality of the College. All of the major benchmarks and goals of the Plan were met or exceeded: applications for admissions to the College broke new records; fund-raising exceeded the campaign's $250 million goal, the Weissman Center for Leadership, and the Center for the Environment were established, and major building and renovation on campus--including a state-of-the-art new science complex--was completed.

Following the success of first plan, the College completed a second round of strategic planning under Creighton's leadership, culminating in The Plan for Mount Holyoke 2010. The Plan commissioned further enterprises, including the creation of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, a new LEED-certified residence hall, major faculty hiring, and increased support for faculty and students, that built on the excellence that has earned Mount Holyoke its long-standing reputation as one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the nation and as the formative oldest women’s college in the world. Under this second plan, the endowment reached an all time high of $660 million and fundraising generated nearly $200 million additional dollars for the College. In all, Mount Holyoke invested some $225 million in facilities and technology during Creighton's presidency, resulting in some 150,000 square feet of new space for the College's academic, co-curricular, residential, and support programs.

In addition to seeing dramatic increases in applications for admission under Creighton's leadership, the College had unprecedented success in attracting a global student body. With 20 percent of the student body from outside the United States, Mount Holyoke became the most international of any leading liberal arts college in the country. At the same time, with Creighton’s unwavering commitment, the College retained its leadership in enrolling students from low-income backgrounds and first-generation college students.

In 2003 Creighton co-founded Women’s Education Worldwide, an organization she continues to lead, which brings together the presidents and chief academic officers of women’s colleges and universities from around the world and other leaders in women’s education. She recently returned from the fourth international meeting of presidents of women’s colleges from five continents in Sydney, Australia. Creighton is the past chair of the Women’s College Coalition and past president of Five Colleges, Incorporated. She continues to be on the board of directors of these organizations as well as of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, the Council of Independent Colleges, and Womensphere. Creighton is widely sought as a consultant to other institutions. She recently affiliated with the consulting firm, the Presidential Practice.

She served from 2001-2009 on the twelve-member Board of Directors of NOVA Chemicals Corporation, an international commodity chemical company that was sold in 2009 to International Petroleum Investment Company for $2.3 billion. As Director she served on the Human Resources Committee (compensation) and the Public Policy and Responsible Care Committee. In her capacity as Director, Creighton helped to mentor women executives and spoke to women’s groups within the corporation. She has continued to address women’s business leadership groups, such as the Womensphere Global Leadership Summit in New York in 2008, and the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong in January 2010.

Prior to her presidency of Mount Holyoke, Creighton served at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut as vice president for academic affairs and provost and professor of English from 1990-1994, and as Wesleyan's interim president from 1994 to 1995. Creighton is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and holds a master of arts in teaching from Harvard University and a doctoral degree in English Literature from the University of Michigan. A member of the faculty at Wayne State University from 1968 to 1985, Creighton began her administrative career there in the early 1980s, leaving in 1985 to become dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The author of four books, Creighton has concentrated much of her scholarly work and teaching on the authors William Faulkner, Margaret Drabble, and Joyce Carol Oates. Her books are William Faulkner's Craft of Revision (1977), Joyce Carol Oates (1979), Margaret Drabble (1985), and Joyce Carol Oates: Novels of the Middle Years (1992). Authoring numerous scholarly articles and reviews, Creighton has also gained prominence as a vocal advocate for what she calls “the great unfinished agenda” – the education of girls and women worldwide – and for her public stances on educational policy issues, including affirmative action, standardized testing, and college rankings. Her writings have appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Boston Globe,The Los Angeles Times,The New Republic, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Chronicle of Higher Education, USA Today, The Hartford Courant, among many other publications. She has honorary degrees from Smith College and Wesleyan University and certificates of recognition from Girls, Inc. and Phi Delta Kappa. In May 2010 she was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Mount Holyoke at her final Commencement as president.