Karen R. Lawrence was inaugurated as tenth president of Sarah Lawrence College on Friday, October 5, 2007, on the College’s campus in Yonkers, N.Y., near the Village of Bronxville. Delegates representing 83 colleges and universities, including seven sitting presidents, joined approximately 700 members of the College community, alumnae/i, and guests to celebrate the occasion.
Lawrence comes to Sarah Lawrence from the School of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine, where she served as dean—as well as professor of English and comparative literature—since 1998. A widely respected English literature scholar and teacher, she has a special interest in James Joyce, travel writing, and modern fiction. She taught English at the University of Utah from 1978 to 1997, has written or edited five books on literature, and has published widely in leading academic journals.
Following the ceremony was a symposium titled, “You Can’t Step Into the Same River Twice: Re-imagining the Liberal Arts in the 21st Century.” Participants were Nancy Cantor, a Sarah Lawrence alumna and chancellor of Syracuse University; Ralph Hexter, president of Hampshire College; Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College; and W. Ian Lipkin, a Sarah Lawrence alumnus and professor of epidemiology, neurology, and pathology at Columbia University, and principal investigator and director at the Northeast Biodefense Center. Pauline Moffitt Watts, alumna and dean of Sarah Lawrence College, was the moderator.
Referring to the theme and title of the colloquium, Watts commented that “Heraclitus’ famous observation regarding the symbiotic relationship between continuity and change seems to capture something essential in the ongoing role that the liberal arts have played in American higher education. That is, the liberal arts are on the one hand rooted in ways of knowing whose history can be traced back to antiquity. On the other hand, these same liberal arts have changed significantly at certain points in time as they responded creatively to historical moments of rapid change in education and culture.”
Other inaugural events included a musical welcome to President Lawrence and her family on Thursday, October 4, including performances by music faculty, students, and guests.
During the 2007-2008 academic year, President Lawrence will visit alumnae/i, parents, and friends in several cities around the country, and a number of special events on campus will mark the inaugural year.