Announcement of Intention to Step Down

Joanne V. Creighton
Remarks at Faculty Meeting
February 25, 2009

This special meeting of the faculty has been called by the chair of the Board of Trustees who has asked to meet with all of you in recognition of the faculty’s central role in institutional planning and governance. What’s this all about? You may well wonder.

In a word, it’s about transition and transition planning. As you know, I’ve been in the job of president a long time -- almost a hundred years. Actually, in January I completed 13 years. It is a great privilege and pleasure to serve in this capacity and I am proud of what we have together accomplished under my presidency, but all good things must come to an end.

I had been in consultation with the Board chair and other leaders on the Board for some time in an attempt to find the right time for making the presidential transition as seamless and productive as possible. Because the end of June 2010 marks the end of the Plan for 2010, this had long seemed to me a natural transition point and that’s the date we agreed on. And so, it is my intention to step down from my position then, 16 months from now, although I will then take a delayed sabbatical leave at which time I will try to synthesize, research, and write about the work we have done in recent years on women’s education worldwide.

Of course, when we agreed on June 30, 2010, we did not anticipate an economic global meltdown. But do know that I will not stop doing my job nor do I intend to be a lame duck for 16 months, but, rather, I will continue to lead the institution as much energy and spirit and determination as I can muster. I will continue to focus on three things:

  1. Completing the goals of the Plan for 2010,
  2. Raising lots of money in our on-going campaign – where we are at 171M on goal of 300M and counting and 
  3. Bringing us through these hard budgetary times with the College’s excellence intact.

In addition to the three immediate tasks, I also intend to continue to press forward the conversation about long-term challenges facing the instituiton. We began this conversation about mission and marketing challenges last year in a couple of faculty plenaries, as you know. These are very consequential matters which will require much thought and about which we do not expect to come to immediate consensus and resolution. But it seems important to begin to discuss these matters so that time is not lost in the transtion, so that the pump will be primed for the next stage of institutional development, and also so there is a developing sense of what kind of leader will be needed as the search process unfolds. That leader will undoubtedly lead a planning effort and articulate a set of goals for the next phase of development, but she or he will be relying a great deal, I am sure, on the collective wisdom and creative energy in the constituents of the institution – most especially of the faculty.

I know that having a presidential transition adds another measure of uncertainty to these uncertain times, but, as I said, for one, I’m not going anywhere for awhile: I’ll be very much present. And two, this institution is very strong in large part because you the faculty make it so: your commitment to high standards of excellence in teaching and scholarship, your strong communal and civil spirit and commitment to shared governance are the source of the College’s strength. And your strength is complemented by that of extraordinarily dedicated staff throughout the institution, by a passionately supportive alumnae all over the world, by a Board of Trustees dedicated to the welfare of the institution, by exceptionally interesting, diverse and talented students and by what is simply an inspirational mission. I have loved championing that mission and this institution because I can do so with such total conviction. I say immodestly that this institution is so much stronger in every way than it was when I started in January 1996 and that is because constituents of the institution have so impressively come together to rally around the mission, worked together effectively to articulate ambitious goals, and then to achieve them. This incredible esprit de corps, is quite unlike any other institution I have known or seen. It is a privilege to be part of it. I have profited enormously from my Mount Holyoke education. I know this spirit will carry the College through these challenging times as it has throughout its impressive history. In fact, despite the challenges that it now faces, I believe that the College has never been stronger academically, financially, collegially and spiritually than it is right now.

I know that you the faculty will step up to your important role at this time. I have total faith in you. I would also like to note in particular my senior staff colleagues who are a team extraordinaire. I’m proud to have assembled them. I love working with them. Most have been here nearly as long or longer than I have. I believe there is no more effective or congenial leadership team anywhere in higher education and, the good news is that they are all committed to staying on and seeing the transition through. The institution is in good hands.

And, they are strongly supported by the Board of Trustees who work so hard and give so generously in every way—time, money, and spirit to the College. As you will learn in a minute, the Board is dedicated to conducting a rigorous search and finding an outstanding leader. And I am sure that with your wise counsel, it will. So, in sum, things are in order and this transition will be orderly too.

So, just to reiterate, this is an important transitional moment, there is consequential on-going work to do, and I along with the senior staff am committed to continuing to move that agenda forward. Meanwhile, there is also a search process to manage. And for that, I turn to my colleague and Board chair, Leslie Anne Miller.

See also: Mount Holyoke's Joanne V. Creighton Announces End Date to Her Presidency