President Lisa Marsh Ryerson has announced that she will retire from the presidency of Wells College. While she will conclude her active term as President at the end of this academic year, she will remain with the College for a sabbatical year in which she will work with the Board of Trustees on key institutional initiatives.
For Ms. Marsh Ryerson this marks the culmination of a 28-year professional career at Wells. After graduating cum laude with a major in English in 1981, she served as the College’s assistant director of admissions and associate dean of students before completing her master’s degree at the State University of New York at Cortland and four years teaching public school. Ms. Marsh Ryerson returned to Wells in 1991 to serve as dean of students, executive vice president and acting president before the Board appointed her to the presidency in 1995.
Ms. Marsh Ryerson has served as Wells’ President since February, 1995. She is the College’s 17th President and the first alumna to hold the position. During her tenure she has led the College’s efforts that resulted in substantial improvements to the campus; the revitalization of commercial properties in the village of Aurora; a successful transition to coeducation; the launch of an endowed Center for Business and Entrepreneurship; and expanded programs and opportunities for students. During Ms. Marsh Ryerson’s presidency the College has also seen a 32% increase in overall enrollment; nine of the largest gifts in the College’s history; and enjoyed consistently high national rankings.
Reflecting on her career at Wells, Ms. Marsh Ryerson says, “Serving Wells, including the past 18 years as President, has been my life’s work and a great joy. Moreover I am incredibly proud of the advances the College has made. Together with my enormously talented and dedicated colleagues on the Board, the faculty, and the staff, we have accomplished much. Each generation of students has energized my work, and I am deeply grateful to have had the support of many alumnae and alumni, generous donors, friends and neighbors, and the higher education community. I am confident Wells is poised for a wonderful future, and as an alumna, I will remain connected to my alma mater and the many relationships I have made along the way.”
President Ryerson has strengthened the national profile of Wells through her active participation in numerous state and national organizations. Among those, she has served as board chair for the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities of New York State, the Women’s College Coalition, and the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN). Her executive committee affiliations have included: the Council of Independent College; the Middle States Commission on Higher Education; and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, for whom she chaired their accountability committee. She is currently serving on the NCAA Division III President’s Council and as vice-chair of the North Eastern Athletic Conference President’s Council.
In addition, President Ryerson has built important local and regional partnerships through her service, including: as advisory board chair for the Finger Lakes Cultural and Natural History Museum; as a trustee of Auburn Community Hospital; on the leadership council of the Cayuga Fund of the Community Foundation of CNY; on the Central New York Advisory Board of HSBC Bank; as a director of the Metropolitan Development Association; on the executive committee of the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce; as vice-president of the board of Seven Lakes Girl Scout Council; and as a founding board member of Peachtown Elementary School in Aurora.
Her accomplishments have earned her numerous awards, including recognition by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Girls Inc. of Central New York, the Public Relations Society of America, and the New York State Senate. In 2010, the State University of New York awarded her an honorary doctorate degree at Cortland College’s commencement ceremony.
Stanley Kott, of Auburn, NY, Chair of the College’s Board of Trustees has praise for Ms. Marsh Ryerson’s leadership, “The Board is grateful to Lisa for both the quality and length of her service and dedication to Wells. Lisa has served the community with extraordinary dedication delivered with sincerity. At a time when the average college president's tenure is seven years, Wells has been tremendously fortunate to have had the benefits of Lisa's energy, talent and commitment for nearly two decades. She has accomplished much on behalf of the College especially as higher education faced the challenges of rising costs, changing student wants and needs, and the recent global economic turmoil, and she has led the institution with integrity, strength, and grace. As we neared the end of her current contract, she had let us know that it was time for her to consider the next phase of her remarkable and productive life. She has positioned the College for an exciting future and thankfully will devote her sabbatical year to matters of mutual interest as we determine just what that future will look like.”
Mr. Kott has noted that the Board will establish a Presidential Transition Committee comprised of representatives of the Wells community. Its first duty will be to search for an interim President for the 2013-14 academic year allowing the College ample time to search for its next leader.