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Mitchell's wise choice

Published March 22. 2014 4:00AM

Mitchell College has landed a president versed in the law, possessed of an exceptional business and marketing background and committed to helping students with non-traditional learning styles succeed. This is a genuine accomplishment for which the Mitchell board of trustees deserves credit.

A commitment to helping students is what attracted Janet L. Steinmayer to seek the Mitchell job, she says, for more than anything else, this New London college has specialized in opportunities for students who did not possess typical learning and study patterns.

Ms. Steinmayer will arrive not only with an impressive resume - company president, board member at Bryn Mawr College, her alma mater, and a seat on the Forbes corporate board - but also with much more: a clear commitment to helping students lift themselves up.

Despite a busy corporate background, Ms. Steinmayer has served as board chairman of a Fairfield County school for children with learning disabilities. She is also a board member of Lesley University, where a program for young adults with special learning needs exists in Cambridge, Mass.

But her focus at Mitchell will have to be broader. She inherits a college with a small endowment - just $7 million - and an aging physical plant. Part of her job will be to fulfill the promise implicit in President Mary Ellen Jukoski's reshaping of the two-year college into a four-year institution with a broad academic program. Dr. Jukoski carved out a good working relationship with the faculty to implement ability-based education and enrolled the college in NCAA sports programs. The college now has 16 degree programs with some 30 variations.

Dr. Jukoski in effect rescued Mitchell at a time of great financial distress and an unstable leadership pattern.

Dr. Robert C. Weller was president of Mitchell for 36 years, far too long for a modern president. When he left in 1987, two other presidents came and went before Dr. Jukoski became the third president in just seven years.

The endowment - traditionally a major part of funding for student scholarships - was a piddling $3 million. Dr. Jukoski raised the endowment to $7 million and built an admissions building along the Thames River and the impressive Duques Center for non-traditional learning that is a campus landmark. Raising much more money will be at the forefront of strengthening Mitchell going forward. The new president certainly has the business and foundation contacts to do just that.

Southeastern Connecticut is pleased to welcome Janet Steinmayer and to wish her much success in a city and region that prizes its colleges - Connecticut College, the Coast Guard Academy and Mitchell in New London - and the University of Connecticut Avery Point Campus and Three Rivers Community College nearby.

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