New London — Mary Ellen Jukoski, the sixth president and first woman to lead Mitchell College, will step down next June, following the school's 75th anniversary.
Jukoski, who was appointed interim president in 1994 and a year later, after a national search, was selected for the top spot, announced her retirement plans during a meeting with faculty and staff Wednesday afternoon at the Weller Center.
Students were notified immediately after the 3 p.m. meeting.
"President Jukoski's service has been extraordinary," Elizabeth Ivey, chairman of the Mitchell College Board of Trustees, said in a prepared statement released by the college. "Not only has Dr. Jukoski nurtured Mitchell College along with the times, she has made Mitchell a welcomed anchor institution in New London and southern New England. Mary Ellen has left a real legacy at Mitchell with the college in a very solid academic and stable financial position so that we will be able to search for our next leader."
Following the school year, Jukoski plans to take a yearlong sabbatical to explore and pursue opportunities to serve the nonprofit educational community and to write about changes in higher education. The trustees are forming a search committee to find her replacement.
"She plans to work to the bitter end and make sure there is a smooth transition for the new president," said Crystal Neuhauser, the college's vice president of advancement communications.
Under Jukoski's leadership, the college on the banks of the Thames River has grown from a two-year college to a four-year institution that offers nearly 30 baccalaureate majors. She also created the Thames Academy, a credit-granting post-high school graduate program.
"I have been so fortunate to lead an amazing institution that has undergone significant transformation," Jukoski said in the statement. "It has been a privilege and an honor to collaborate with such dedicated faculty and committed staff during its evolution from a regional two-year institution into a four-year college that is now a national leader in student-centered learning and engagement."
During her tenure, Jukoski, who began her career at Mitchell in 1990 as a dean, expanded campus facilities, renewed the college's 10-year accreditation and spearheaded the move to NCAA Division III athletics. Enrollment almost tripled and the endowment doubled. In the past year, the number of students applying to Mitchell rose by nearly 20 percent, yielding a fall class 32 percent larger than last year.
She also received a five-year, $2 million Federal Title III grant, with matching funding to the endowment, which moved the college to an ability-based education model. She also brought in a Johnson Scholarship Foundation grant for career services for students with learning disabilities, and a Davis Educational Foundation grant for a new Center for Teaching Excellence.
During her presidency, the college completed a campus master plan that included the Duquès Center, which houses the Bentsen Learning Center; Mariner Hall, a suite-style residence; Henry Hall, which has new admissions and financial aid offices; the conversion of the President's House into communications and advancement offices; and the purchase of Michael's Dairy, a popular New London ice cream store that houses the new college radio station.
She also oversaw renovations to the Weller Center, Milner Dining Hall, the library, Mitchell Hall, and the addition of the Yarnall Fitness Center, a student center, and a health and wellness center.
Jukoski's tenure also has been marked by community involvement. She is a member of the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and has served on boards at United Way, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, Chelsea Groton Bank, Connecticut Campus Compact, and the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges.
Most recently, she created an innovative partnership between the college and the New London Science and Technology Magnet High School, through which courses are offered to both high school and Mitchell students.
Jukoski earned her doctorate from the University of Memphis in higher education curriculum and instruction. She participated in the three-year W. K. Kellogg Foundation National Leadership Fellows Program and received an Excellence in Education Award as a distinguished alumna of the State University of New York, Albany. She also received the Crawford Award for Distinguished Service from the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce; recognition as one of 100 Women's Leaders by the Women's Center of Southeastern Connecticut; and one of "25 Uncommon Women in Connecticut" by the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. She also was awarded an honorary doctorate from Connecticut College.