In naming Katherine Bergeron as its 11th president, Connecticut College selected a woman with an impressive academic background, a clear commitment to liberal arts education, and a local girl to boot. Not bad.
To join Connecticut College, Ms. Bergeron, 55, will be leaving her position as Dean of the College at Brown University in Providence. Her position at the Ivy League school placed her in charge of the office that works with the deans and program directors who oversee undergraduate studies. She should be well equipped for the administrative duties as president of Connecticut College.
The college's next president is correct in observing that retiring President Leo I. Higdon has left her a college with a very strong foundation.
It is, in some respects, a return home for Ms. Bergeron. An Old Lyme native, she is a 1976 graduate of Lyme-Old Lyme High School. Her history suggests she will continue to strengthen the ties between the small liberal arts college and the community, particularly its host city of New London.
Ms. Bergeron, who begins her new position Jan. 1, attended Wesleyan University, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in music. She has master's and doctoral degrees in musicology from Cornell University. After 11 years teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, she moved on to Brown in 2004 as a professor of music and soon began a climb up the administrative ladder.
In an age when higher education is more focused than ever on specific training for specific career tracks, Ms. Bergeron reminds students it's also about the journey and a desire to gain a diversity of knowledge, a philosophy fundamental to a liberal arts education.
In a 2006 speech to incoming students at Brown, Ms. Bergeron referred to the importance of first steps, of "binding yourself to a course of action," even when the outcome is uncertain, but confident that it will be enriching.
"In the classes you take, in the activities you pursue, in the jobs you do, in the books you read, the papers you write, the experiments you perform, the art you create, may the most important step you take be the one you take before you start," Ms. Bergeron told those students.
Appropriate to note as this incoming president takes a first step by accepting the leadership role at Connecticut College.