Published March 17. 2014 12:00PM Updated March 18. 2014 12:07PM
New London — For nearly two decades, Janet L. Steinmayer has worked with schools for students who learn differently.
Steinmayer, who was named Mitchell College's seventh president Monday, is the chairwoman of the Board of Trustees at Eagle Hill-Southport, a school in Southport that helps children with learning disabilities develop, and she serves on the board at Lesley University, which has a program for young adults with special needs in Cambridge, Mass.
"I feel passionately about this area of education and the tremendous impact that educators and others working in this area can have on students' lives," Steinmayer said.
Mitchell College is nationally known for its academic support programs that support individual learning differences. The college's Board of Trustees announced Monday that after a nationwide search, Steinmayer has been selected to succeed Mary Ellen Jukoski on July 1.
An entrepreneur, Steinmayer is the founder and chief executive officer of Appleseed Food Frontiers, a company that provides strategic marketing and consulting services to expansion stage and artisanal food companies. She previously served as president and chief executive officer of one of the largest hospitality companies in North America, Centerplate Inc. She lives in Old Greenwich.
"We are so fortunate to have someone with Janet's unique background in higher education and business to build on Mitchell's recognized leadership in providing academic, personal and career success to students with diverse talents and learning styles," Elizabeth Ivey, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, said in a statement. "Her multi-faceted background and ability to lead strategically and collaboratively represent the right mix of skills to carry Mitchell into the future."
Steinmayer said she is confident she can work with the dedicated and passionate individuals who make up the Mitchell College community, to continue to build Mitchell as "a leading force in ensuring that students, no matter what their learning style, will achieve academic and lifelong success."
"So much of my background ties to what they're doing and what they plan to do in the future, so it's very exciting to me," said Steinmayer, who describes her leadership style as "very collaborative."
Jukoski, the first woman to lead Mitchell College, announced in September that she would retire in June, following the school's 75th anniversary. Jukoski was appointed interim president in 1994 and a year later, after a national search, selected for the top spot.
Under Jukoski's leadership, the college 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.
Jukoski said her successor is "a leader with a perfect blend of bold vision and an abiding regard for our mission, history and distinctive character."
"I am proud to entrust the Mitchell community to her care," she said.
Steinmayer, who has lived in Connecticut for 30 years, said she is thrilled and honored to have been chosen to lead Mitchell College, and she is looking forward to being a part of the New London community.
Steinmayer's experience in higher education includes serving on the Board of Trustees for her alma mater, Bryn Mawr College, and on the Board of Visitors for the John F. Welch College of Business at Sacred Heart University.
She helped linked businesses with colleges and universities through internships and partnerships while serving on the board of The Business Council of Fairfield County. As a mentor with the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, Steinmayer advised students from China who were pursuing a business venture selling tea.
Steinmayer studied law at the University of Chicago Law School and began her career as a corporate lawyer. She served on the governor's Transition Planning Committee on agricultural policy in 2010.
Karen A. Jeffers, an attorney at Jeffers Cowherd in Fairfield, has known Steinmayer for more than 20 years. She said Steinmayer is "a born leader" and Mitchell will benefit from having a president who knows education and business, and "where the two can create wonderful links to the benefit of the school."
"Her ability to see the strengths in an institution and capitalize on those strengths, I think, is pretty amazing," Jeffers said. "And Mitchell looks to me like one of those places that has a lot of strengths and is looking toward the future."
Arlene Gibson, the board chairwoman at Bryn Mawr, said Steinmayer is one of the most strategic thinkers she knows.
"I think for Mitchell, it is just the perfect match," she said Monday. "It combines a passion she has for the work along with a skill set that is pretty phenomenal."