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SO. HADLEY, MA – Joanne V. Creighton, president of Mount Holyoke College, announced today that she will step down at the end of the 2009-2010 academic year after nearly 15 years of service. In a communication to members of the Mount Holyoke community, Creighton praised the collective effort of the College's many supporters throughout her
The 17th president of the world's oldest women's college, Creighton was joined by Leslie Anne Miller, chair of the Board of Trustees and a 1973 MHC graduate, as she informed the College's faculty of her decision at a special meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
Miller commended Creighton's leadership, noting, "Joanne has brought the College to a position of strength surpassing any period in our 172-year history. Under her leadership, we have seen renewed investment in the academic program and the campus, as well as an all-time high in admissions, fundraising, and endowment. The College's superlative faculty and academic core place it today among the very finest liberal arts colleges in the nation, sought out by young women around the country and the globe."
Miller's statement was also sent electronically to the global Mount Holyoke community and was posted on the school's Web site along with President Creighton's.
With an end date still nearly a year and one-half away, Creighton's work as president is far from complete. Board Chair Miller hastened to remind the community that there is "vital work to be done over the next 16 months," including the completion of the College's current strategic plan, a $300 million fundraising campaign, and responding to the ongoing financial crisis. Miller also discussed the search process for a successor, which she said would start immediately and will invite the participation of all community members.
Former Bryn Mawr president and champion of liberal education Mary Patterson McPherson hailed Creighton's influential role in advancing both women's education and Mount Holyoke.
"Joanne Creighton is much admired by her fellow presidents for her intelligent, creative, and steadfast leadership of Mount Holyoke College," said McPherson, the former vice president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and current chief of the American Philosophical Society. "A most effective advocate for liberal arts education and the continuing importance of women's colleges, Joanne has strengthened her institution with superb faculty appointments, well-supported curricular innovation, and a courageous questioning of the role of SAT and ACT test scores in student admissions. Few presidents have given as wise and loyal service to their college as has Joanne."
In 2002, she led the development of a second plan, The Plan for 2010, which built on the school's pioneering tradition of academic excellence for women, dating back to 1837.
The Creighton years have also seen the launch of three academic centers that represent the meeting points of academic inquiry and the College's commitment to "purposeful engagement with the world." The Center for the Environment, the Weissman Center for Leadership, and the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, along with a fourth Center for the Sciences, have shaped the College's engagement with key currents in contemporary life.
As the "fundraiser-in-chief," Creighton has also led the school to the successful completion of a $250 million campaign in 2003, and in significant progress towards the $300 million Campaign for Mount Holyoke, now underway. The College's endowment grew from $247 million in 1996 to a high of $656 million before the recent financial crisis.
Renewing the campus: uncommon common grounds
The fruits of Creighton's planning can be seen across the Mount Holyoke campus, where she has led one of the most significant building periods in the school's history. With funding from its two campaigns, and an aesthetic that marries "the venerable and the hip," as she puts it, Creighton's underlying vision has been to create new spaces – indoor and outdoor – that draw people together and to make one of the nation's most beautiful campuses even more attractive, functional, and collegial.
The new Kendade Science Center, a renovated Blanchard Campus Center, and a new 180-bed residence hall – all LEED-certified green buildings – are striking additions to the 172-year-old campus. The art museum, art building, music building, and admissions center have all undergone extensive renovations as well. A new track and synthetic turf field opened last year, and will soon be joined by an expanded Kendall Hall, which houses the College's athletic and dance facilities. Meanwhile, the College has undertaken a systematic renovation and renewal of its residence halls, the library, and its classrooms, infusing technology across the campus and creating spaces that work for today's undergraduates
In all, Mount Holyoke has 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.
Creighton has been a vocal champion of the education of girls and women around the world while leading Mount Holyoke, the founding member of the original Seven Sister colleges, into the new century.
Throughout her time at Mount Holyoke, Creighton has been an outspoken advocate for educational and women's issues. In 2004 she co-founded Women's Education Worldwide, a global alliance of women's colleges, which has gained widespread attention as countries around the world pay new attention to the links between women's education and social and economic development.
Creighton has also gained prominence for her public stances on domestic educational policy issues, including affirmative action, standardized testing, and college rankings.
"She is a strong role model. She inspires Mount Holyoke students to see the power of our education and to take a stand for what we believe in. Students get to know her in a genuine way, whether at campus events or just out and about with Maisie," said Kraschel, referring to Creighton's beagle and iconic companion on her regular campus walks.
Before coming to Mount Holyoke, Creighton was provost and acting president at Wesleyan University. She 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 Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. She has held faculty and administrative positions at Wayne State University and 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. Even with the demands of the presidency, Creighton has been able to keep a hand in her literary scholarship; she recently co-authored a journal article on Joyce Carol Oates with a Mount Holyoke undergraduate and had book reviews appear in the Chicago Tribune.
In July 2010, Creighton plans to take a sabbatical and continue her leadership role in Women's Education Worldwide, while trying to "synthesize and articulate" what she has learned from developing and working with this growing network.
"My Mount Holyoke education," Creighton reflected in her message, "has been an incredible learning experience: indeed, a transformative one. While it has taken me longer than most students, I expect to 'graduate' after completing 14 and one-half years in residence and to take my place among the proud band of Mount Holyoke women."
Founded in 1837, and the first of the Seven Sisters--the female equivalent of the once predominantly male Ivy League--Mount Holyoke was the model upon which many other women's colleges were patterned. Throughout its long history, the College has been known for brilliant teaching and academic excellence, and it has a longstanding record as one of the most successful producers of women in the sciences in all of U.S. higher education. In recent years, the school has radically expanded its international reach, and now features the most internationally diverse student body of any American college of its kind.