Saint Michael’s hires Lorraine Sterritt as its first female president
COLCHESTER — The first woman president of Saint Michael’s College arrived on campus this past Tuesday to meet with administrators, faculty, staff and students.
Lorraine Sterritt’s selection as the 17th president of the Colchester liberal arts college was announced by the college’s presidential search committee on Jan. 26.
Originally from Ireland, Sterritt is currently president of Salem Academy and College in Winston-Salem, N.C. She will take up her new position in July. College officials declined to disclose salary information.
“When I first started exploring this opportunity, Saint Michael’s stole my heart,” Sterritt said in a 30-minute address to members of the college community at the McCarthy Arts Center. “The more I fell in love with Saint Michael’s, the more I realized how fundamentally the institution’s values and mine were in alignment — devoted to learning, social justice, hospitality, respect of the dignity of every human being and stewardship of the planet. The spirit of Saint Michael’s came through loud and clear at every turn.”
Later, at a press conference, she said her approach to her job would be based on a three-tiered model consisting of analysis, assessment and action.
Sterritt said she would build “on the great work” of the college’s current president, Jack Neuhauser, who is retiring.
“All of that takes a village, and we’ll do it together,” Sterritt said. “As a person called to a life of service, I’m profoundly honored to be admitted to your company.”
Sterritt’s nearly 30-year career in higher education has taken her around the U.S., including Harvard University, where she was associate dean of freshmen, and the University of Pennsylvania, where she was dean of freshmen and director of academic advising. Sterritt holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in French from Queen’s University Belfast, and a master’s degree and a doctorate in French from Princeton University.
In appointing Sterritt, Saint Michael’s joins a recent trend among Catholic institutions of higher learning toward appointing women presidents. From 2000 to 2016 the number of women presidents of Catholic colleges and universities increased nearly 150 percent; of 220 colleges and universities in 2016, 46 had women lay presidents, according to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
“I’m very deeply honored,” Sterritt said. “I would be honored to be any president of Saint Michael’s College, but I’m deeply honored to be the first woman president of Saint Michael’s College.”
Saint Michael’s, which was founded in 1904 by the Catholic Society of Saint Edmund, has recently faced challenging times. It is competing with other small liberal arts colleges for both students and funding. There were staff layoffs at the start of the academic year. Sterritt said such challenges are common among smaller colleges. She said she would institute an aggressive marketing plan, and would be urging students and alumni to be ambassadors for Saint Michael’s.
Mary Kate McKenna, chair of the presidential search committee and head of the college’s board of trustees, said Sterritt is the right person for Saint Michael’s. “The committee is thrilled to have Dr. Sterritt, a scholar and experienced administrator, coming to lead the college at such a crucial time in our history.”
McKenna, a 1980 graduate of the college, said Sterritt’s resume floated to the top of the applicant pool. She praised Sterritt’s love of liberal arts education, specifically, and her “clear vision” for the future of higher education generally.
Sixty-five applicants submitted resumes for the position, according to The Very Rev. Stephen Hornat, superior general of the Society of Saint Edmund and a member of the search committee. “She’ll make a great president and will have the prayers and support of the Edmundite and the larger Saint Michael’s community,” Hornat said.
Born and raised in Ireland, Sterritt first came to the United States on vacation in 1984, when she visited New York, Boston and Vermont, and in her words, “fell in love with Vermont.” She moved to the United States in 1985.
Sterritt has a career of nearly 30 years in education in the U.S. starting at Chatham Hall, an all-girls college-preparatory boarding school in Chatham, Va., where she was director of school and also taught French and Latin from 1985 to 1991. From 1991 to 1996 Sterritt studied at Princeton University, where she also served as assistant master of Wilson College.
In 1996, she became associate dean of freshmen at Harvard University before moving to the University of Pennsylvania, where she served as Dean of Freshmen and director of Academic Advising.
From 2004 to 2010, she was administrator with teaching roles at Stanford University, and served as associate dean for Graduate and Undergraduate Studies for the School of Humanities and Sciences. From there she moved to Harvard, where she was a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University and Dean for Administration at Harvard College.
Sterritt took the top job at Salem Academy and College in North Carolina in 2014.
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