Posted: May 7, 2010
When longtime Mount Holyoke President Joanne V. Creighton steps down from her position next month, she will leave a multifaceted legacy of great institutional advancement, along with many reminders of her nearly 15 years at MHC. None will be more visible than the sign on the College's newest residence hall that now carries her name.
The naming of Joanne V. Creighton Hall--formerly known simply as the new residence hall--was announced during the May 6 celebration of Creighton's presidency. MHC trustee chair Leslie Anne Miller '73 told an enthusiastic audience of students, trustees, faculty, staff, family, and friends that the board was acknowledging "its profound gratitude to (Creighton) for her extraordinary contributions to the College and its community" and expressing its "admiration and affection in perpetuity" by naming the new residence hall in her honor.
(left to right) Zahra Anwar '12, Maria Athayde '12, Sarah Elahi '10, Aliza Hanif '11, President Joanne V. Creighton, Kati Stadum '10, Binh Ha '11, and Laura Appel '10
The surprise tribute to the president was made possible by a $5.2 million gift from trustees, alumnae, and friends--a gift that brings the College's $300 million Campaign for Mount Holyoke close to a $200 million milestone. The announcement was the culmination of the celebratory event held in Chapin Auditorium; it featured several speakers, as well as a showing of The Creighton Effect, a video illustrating the highlights of Creighton's presidency, and a rousing excerpt from Mark Morris's Gloria performed by MHC and Five College dance students.
President since 1996, Creighton is considered a champion of women's education and the liberal arts tradition. The day's speakers credited her with transforming the campus through her efforts to revitalize existing facilities and initiate new building development in support of the College's academic mission. Dean of the faculty Donal O'Shea praised Creighton for bringing coherence to the Mount Holyoke community; Student Government Association president May Yang '10 thanked her for providing "all the resources students need"; professor of politics Joan Cocks said she "brought space for openness and debate" to the campus; and Smith president Carol Christ credited her work with Women's Education Worldwide, noting Creighton has "the gift of sisterhood." Eleanor Graham Claus '55, former chair of the trustees, said with Creighton's successful completion of a $250 million campaign in 2003, "financial equilibrium became part of our everyday thinking."
Miller reminded the audience of the challenges Creighton faced and tackled during her tenure, including the recent economic downturn.
"In typical Creighton fashion, Joanne confronted board 'demands' and institutional challenges as she always has--by working. And I do mean working," said Miller. "Calmly, collaboratively, and constructively right up until the end of her presidency. The results, as we have heard, and which we celebrate today, are remarkable."
The news of the naming of Creighton Hall was met with a sustained standing ovation from the Chapin audience. A clearly surprised Creighton confessed to being "amazed and overwhelmed."
"Today is a celebration not of me, but of the College," she said. "All I can say is, I didn't do it alone. The strength of the College is all of you."
Following the indoor program, a reception was held on the Mary Woolley Green; that was followed by a formal dinner with the trustees and invited guests. Miller also presided over the dinner ceremonies, introducing a host of speakers, including Harriet Weissman '58, former trustee and benefactor of the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts, and Rochelle Calhoun '83, former executive director of the Alumnae Association. Weissman called Creighton a "visionary leader" who "created an atmosphere where creative thinking is encouraged and supported."
Thanking everyone for their remarks, Creighton said, "I feel like I’ve attended my own memorial service without the inconvenience of having to die first…. What a terrific ride it's been to be part of this extraordinary institution. It has been such a privilege to serve as president."
A teacher and literary scholar, Creighton has been known for her expertise in strategic planning and implementation as an administrator. Under her leadership, Mount Holyoke has reached all-time highs in admissions, fundraising, and endowment. The campus has also undergone an impressive building boom and several renovation projects, and the College has launched three academic centers: the Miller Worley Center for the Environment, the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts, and the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives.
In all, Mount Holyoke has invested some $225 million in facilities and technology during her presidency, resulting in some 150,000 square feet of new space for the College's academic, cocurricular, residential, and support programs. The 180-bed, LEED-certified Creighton Hall opened at the beginning of the 2008-2009 academic year.
Creighton, who will begin a sabbatical in late June, will receive an honorary degree from the College during this year's Commencement ceremony on May 23. Lynn Pasquerella '80 will become the eighteenth president of Mount Holyoke on July 1.