Tributes to President Karen R. Lawrence

President Karen R. Lawrence

With this issue we bid hail and farewell to Karen R. Lawrence. As president, she met a decade of extraordinary challenge with extraordinary determination. Matching her resolve, the Sarah Lawrence community rallied. Tenacity yielded transformation and generated momentum that will enhance the College’s traditional strengths and—as Karen promised early in her tenure—encourage “the anomalous and the adventurous.”

Laura Anglin, Former President, Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities

After serving 10 successful years as the 10th president of Sarah Lawrence College, when Karen Lawrence ends her term this summer, the entire Sarah Lawrence community will not only honor her leadership, but all will also honor her thoughtfulness, kindness, and, for many, her unwavering friendship. As president, Karen’s vision benefited students through internship programs and extracurricular programs and her deep focus on the humanities. She also fully embraced the notion that colleges are strong community partners. She was a role model for many women, myself included, and her work as a member of the Women’s Leadership Network paved the way for future women. Thank you for your kindness and dedication, Karen. You will be missed.

Laura Anglin
Chief Administrative Officer,
New York City Office of the Mayor

Former President,
Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities

Jon Avnet ’71

Karen Lawrence is the quintessential Sarah Lawrence president. Her tireless efforts to nourish and sustain the values that have made SLC such a unique “learning institution” have been remarkable, not only for her tenacity and success, but for her humor and warmth. Always approachable, she listens with a capital “L.”

This past summer, I directed my newest film on the Sarah Lawrence College campus. It starred two notable Sadie Lou alumni, Julianna Margulies ’89 and Jane Alexander ’61 (and a few other talents: Richard Gere, Peter Dinklage, Walton Goggins, Bradley Whitford, and more.)

I have negotiated many, many “deals” in my years making films, and Karen would make mincemeat out of many of my colleagues in the business. Her fierceness has been very successful in advancing the financial well being of the College.

Most important to me is her love of learning, of James Joyce of course, but also all forms of learning coupled with her rapacious need and capacity to nurture the future generation of students who will be the unique voices of tomorrow.

Jon Avnet ’71
Film, Television, and Theatre Director / Producer

Judith Babbitts MA ’76, Dean of Graduate & Professional Studies

Karen has been instrumental in reshaping the role of graduate and professional education at Sarah Lawrence. Realizing that new modes of instructional delivery and emerging interest in continuing education and training were reshaping higher education, she championed and supported an expanded vision for Graduate and Professional Studies. She understood the potential to build upon the College’s history of excellence in teaching to develop new educational opportunities for lifelong learners. One of her most important legacies will be the difference students who previously did not have the opportunity to benefit from a Sarah Lawrence education are now enabled to make in the world around them.

Judith Babbitts MA ’76
Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies

Joan Countryman ’62, Honorary Trustee

I first met Karen in August 2006 in the lobby of the Hilton LAX when, as members of the presidential search committee, Diana Leslie and I traveled to the West Coast to speak with potential candidates. During our one-hour conversation, Diana and I found Karen warm, engaging, insightful, a genuine advocate of the liberal arts. Would she come to appreciate Sarah Lawrence? In our report to the committee we gave her high marks, strongly recommending that we invite her for further discussions. One of Karen’s references had suggested that she would be “an inspired choice.”

As an educational administrator who has led tuition-dependent schools, I know the challenge of navigating in shallow waters. The global recession that marked Karen’s tenure makes the list of her achievements even more remarkable. Leadership requires three essential skills: the ability to listen, being willing to learn, and loving what you do. A listener and a learner who loved her work, Karen quickly came to love our College, too. She has been an inspired choice, indeed.

Joan Countryman ’62
Honorary Trustee

Vicki C. Ford ’60, MSEd ’87, Trustee

Karen Lawrence proved her determination and dedication to Sarah Lawrence College in her decade as president.

Her challenging journey required guiding the College through the economic downturn, managing gradual and effective restructuring, while leading the capital campaign to enhance the future.

Leadership for the College required unceasing energy, problem resolution, and outreach for resources. The generosity of spirit, with respect for the College’s integrity, has provided sure footing for the future.

Thank you, Karen.

Vicki C. Ford ’60, MSEd ’87
Trustee

Allen Green, Dean of Equity & Inclusion

As I reflect on Karen’s legacy for the College, her commitment to diversity stands out. Our strategic plan called upon the College to “cultivate a vibrant, diverse, and engaged student community.” During her tenure, the diversity of the student community has grown significantly, and she has created positions to support that growing population. She created the position of chief diversity officer (CDO), and that evolved into the position of dean of equity and inclusion. Monitoring the diversity of our student population as well as our hiring practices for faculty and staff has ensured that all searches have a diverse pool of candidates.

Another vital issue for colleges today where Karen has proved her leadership is sexual violence on campuses. Addressing the need to confront and stem incidents of sexual violence, Karen created the position of Title IX coordinator. As a precursor to this position, she created the Sexual Assault Task Force to examine our sexual violence policies and procedures and recommend improvements. Adding the position of Title IX coordinator to the responsibilities of the dean of equity and inclusion, Karen affirmed that these issues would be addressed at the highest administrative level.

Karen was also instrumental in the move of our athletic program to NCAA Division III status, signaling to our students that being a student-athlete is a viable option at the College and is consistent with our mission of educating the whole student.

All of these initiatives gave the College a national platform on which to address these important issues.

Allen Green
Dean of Equity and Inclusion

Tori Haring-Smith, Former President, Annapolis Group

Karen Lawrence has been a groundbreaker all her life, from being one of the first women to graduate from Yale to her remarkable 10 years at Sarah Lawrence. I am particularly impressed by her commitment to expanding the College's work in internationalism and in environmental quality, two areas that are crucial to the future of the human race. She has also been a national leader, encouraging us all to ask big questions and strive to keep higher education vibrant.

Tori Haring-Smith
President, Washington & Jefferson College
Former President, Annapolis Group

John A. Hill, Trustee & Board Chair, 2008–2016

One of the truly great privileges of my life has been to work with you during your presidency of Sarah Lawrence College and to learn from your example important lessons about the elements of effective leadership. To be sure, the challenges you faced represented an almost perfect storm for higher education and certainly some of the most daunting trials in the College’s history—the financial crisis of 2008, declining college enrollments, a rising chorus of questions about the role of liberal arts education in today’s world, to name only a few.

In spite of challenges that would have stymied most mortals, you have achieved incredible success. You have undertaken the largest fundraising campaign in the history of the College, with more than $135 million raised to date toward our goal of $200 million and several of the largest individual gifts ever given to the College. You have preserved Sarah Lawrence’s unique and very special pedagogy while securing resources for new initiatives in environmental studies, science, technology and the arts; for faculty chairs in Asian Studies, economics, history, and creative writing; and for new opportunities to study abroad. You have more than doubled the amount of financial aid available to our students and set a new standard of personal engagement with all students. You secured a leadership gift from alumnus Barbara Walters to create, at long last, a transformational campus center to support important student activities, and you fostered an expanding network of internships, community partnerships, and extracurricular programs to help students test and develop their ideas in real world situations. Under your leadership, the student body has become more diverse and international, with students of color increasing from 14 percent to 24 percent and the international student population increasing from 4 percent to 12 percent. You have shepherded the College to membership in NCAA Division III athletics and built the strongest senior staff capability and administrative infrastructure in the history of the College—a capability that, with your leadership, has put the College on a sustainable trajectory for the benefit of future generations.

Beyond the campus you have been an effective and significant national spokesperson for the importance of a liberal arts education and gained recognition for Sarah Lawrence’s “critical abilities assessment” program for evaluating its students. Importantly, you have strengthened the College’s relationships with the communities of Yonkers and Bronxville through special programs such as Intensive Semester in Yonkers and the Center for the Urban River at Beczak as well as personal involvement with local leaders, community members, and organizations.

In sum, extraordinary challenges—extraordinary accomplishments. You were indefatigable in responding to all of the challenges thrown your way—and you leave Sarah Lawrence in a much better and stronger place than when you arrived. Thank you.

John A. Hill
Trustee; Chair of the Board, 2008–2016

Catherine Hooper ’08

At the beginning of my senior year at Sarah Lawrence, I was lucky enough to be nominated for General Committee, a subcommittee of Student Senate that brings two students to weekly meetings with the president, dean of students, provost, and other high level administrative officers of the College. It’s a rare opportunity for students to play a role in programmatic changes and reforms, from academics to student life to development and alumni affairs.

My joining General Committee happened to coincide with Karen Lawrence’s first year as president of the College. I was immediately impressed with her. She could see how different Sarah Lawrence is from a typical university setting and made clear she was up for the challenge. She took the time to interact with as many students, administrators, and faculty as possible, to truly understand where the school was and where it needed to go to be even more successful.

In our General Committee meetings, there wasn’t a single discussion that didn’t include a student’s perspective. One of the best examples of that was the conversation around joining the NCAA. For years, faculty and staff pushed back on the idea. But my fellow General Committee member and I argued that it didn’t threaten the school’s mission or model. In fact, we felt it would actually increase applications from athletically inclined students and even encourage some school spirit, something that was desperately needed. By the end of the year, we had all voted in favor of joining NCAA, and I give Karen credit for pushing the committee to think outside the norm.

I looked forward to those two hours in Westlands every week. Whether we were talking about student bylaws, admission policies, or even the social issues on campus, you could tell Karen really cared. I felt the president cared as much about empowering students and fortifying our unique qualities as she did about ensuring economic security for the school.

Karen didn’t accept the status quo. She moved her family to the President’s House. Her family roamed the lawns and hallways with the rest of us. She invited cohorts of students to her home on a regular basis to learn more about who we are and what’s important to us. She even taught a class!

The open line of communication didn’t end when she shook my hand and gave me a diploma. She’s always made herself available to me and to fellow classmates when we express ideas or concerns about the school’s direction. While I’m sad to see her go, I’m even more grateful for what she’s already done to uphold and enhance the qualities that make Sarah Lawrence so special.

Catherine Hooper ’08
Former Member, General Committee

Julie Johnson Kidd, President, The Endeavor Foundation

From the point of view of those of us at The Endeavor Foundation, formerly Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, the leadership of President Karen Lawrence represents an outstanding contribution to the life and development of Sarah Lawrence College. As exemplified by her decisions and actions, the particular liberal arts mission of Sarah Lawrence has always remained in the forefront of her mind and has been her guiding principle, her North Star. With financial pressures being what they are, it is very difficult indeed to keep the response to each challenge rooted in the liberal arts agenda instead of being shaped primarily by financial considerations. Such a perspective takes courage and persistence, arguably the two most important qualities of leadership.

As a result, President Lawrence has strengthened the Sarah Lawrence culture immeasurably, including new and imaginative initiatives, which have expanded the commitment of the College to developing greater cross-cultural understanding and awareness. For a college the size of Sarah Lawrence, the international focus of the curriculum is unusually rich, deep, and compelling and, thankfully, occupies a place of distinction within the Sarah Lawrence curriculum. The challenge of learning about and understanding cultures other than our own is even more important at this point in history, and thus the presidency of Karen Lawrence has provided, in this and many other ways, an important gift to the life of the College. Sarah Lawrence students are thus exposed to the central challenges to humankind in the 21st century and inspired to find their own unique responses.

The trustees of The Endeavor Foundation join me in wishing President Lawrence well in all her future endeavors. We know that she will embrace them with the same vigor, enthusiasm, and clear thinking she has brought to her years at Sarah Lawrence College.

Julie Johnson Kidd
President, The Endeavor Foundation

Shirley Kaplan, Theatre Faculty, Emerita

It is June. Dave McRee and I ask President Karen Lawrence, as we have in recent years, if she would play the piano to open the Faculty Show.

“Will Tommy’s Band be playing and will Willy (Kelly) be singing? Will the rest of the faculty, staff, and administrators perform? Can I play ‘Summertime’ again? ... I need to practice.”

The audience enters Reisinger right after the Don-Donnee Dinner. Footage of Sarah Lawrence students fills the back wall. Seated on platforms, the cast is made up of faculty, staff, and administrators. It is a night for group songs, rewritten solos, dancing, skits—a tribute and gift to the graduating seniors.

It is set up like a cabaret. The band is playing some blues and rock ‘n’ roll; Willy is scatting.

Then the lights go dim and the spotlight goes up on Karen Lawrence as she enters from the side toward the piano. The audience is surprised and delighted and cheers her on. Her lyrical jazz version of ‘Summertime’ starts the show.

After she plays, she walks over to a cabaret table, and, while the audience applauds, Dave McCree hands her a champagne glass. She then toasts the graduating senior class and congratulates them as they go on to the next steps of their lives.

Karen, I want you to know how important your being on that stage each year has been. It has always been a real statement and a loving, generous gift.

I toast you, Karen Lawrence!

Shirley Kaplan
Theatre Faculty, Emerita

Julianna Margulies ’89

Karen Lawrence embodies everything I love about Sarah Lawrence: fierce leadership, inspiring dedication, and a true love for what Sarah Lawrence is all about. Just sitting with her and hearing her talk about her mission for SLC is enough to get anyone on board. She is a true believer in higher education as an art form, and I am confident that she has left a clear footprint to continue her legacy. It was a pleasure getting to know her; we were all lucky to have her. And I have no doubt that whatever she tackles next will be just as inspiring and successful.

Julianna Margulies ’89
Film and Television Actor

Joan H. Marks ’51

It is an honor to speak about Karen Lawrence as she prepares to step down as Sarah Lawrence’s president. Because of her leadership, the College has reached a new level of success as an innovative institution of higher education.

As founder of the Health Advocacy Program and former director of the Human Genetics Program, it was my pleasure to get to know Karen. She reached out to me to learn as much as possible about the programs, and she was eager to meet the faculty as soon as possible.

Karen is such a warm person, so it was easy to connect with her and her husband, Peter. On several occasions, my husband and I had dinner with them following gatherings of alumni wintering in Florida. I witnessed how easily and graciously Karen interacted with these supporters of the College, young and old, making these events very successful and enjoyable.

Karen will always be remembered for her friendliness and her ability to generate serious interest in new projects at the College—as well as her warm relations with faculty, students, and current and past parents.

She leaves the College much stronger and more diverse in the best possible ways. All of us in the Sarah Lawrence community are in her debt, and she and her leadership will be missed.

Joan H. Marks ’51
Founder and Former Director, Health Advocacy Program
Former Director, Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics

Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Bronxville, New York

President Karen Lawrence shall remain a lasting gift to the Village of Bronxville as well as a lifelong friend to me.

Her tenure was characterized by an open mind and an open heart and hands that always reached across the sometimes divide to find a commonality of purpose, not the vestiges of division.

She led through the lens of humanity and built lasting bridges through her warmth, approachability, measured judgment, and keen sense of people. She is a genuinely dedicated educator who lives a life of purpose, scholarship, and, most important, vision.

The love of her immediate family translated into a love of her students, and she always had a compassionate heart and a gift of listening.

Karen is a connector and brought people together, elevating the level of discourse and comradery.

Her respect for all peoples and ideas was an inspiration, and her legacy will be one of building bridges that enhanced us all.

I shall be forever grateful that she chose to share her talents with the Bronxville community.

Mary C. Marvin
Mayor, Bronxville, New York

Shelley Mayer, New York State Assembly Member

I am delighted to congratulate Dr. Karen Lawrence on a successful and accomplished 10 years as the president of Sarah Lawrence College. Dr. Lawrence has been a great advocate for the College and believer in its mission to prepare young students for the future with a rigorous intellectual interdisciplinary curriculum. I value the personal relationship I have formed with her as she has worked to understand the needs of the City of Yonkers. I also appreciate her recognizing how exposure to the multifaceted diversity of our city benefits the College’s students in their personal and academic growth.

Dr. Lawrence has worked to open lines of communication and made great strides in developing a collaborative relationship between the College and the city. She has understood that her students and faculty, as well as the community, benefit from sustained partnerships between the city—particularly the Yonkers Public Schools—and Sarah Lawrence College. As the New York State Assembly member representing the College, it has been my pleasure to host many student interns. They consistently reflect the intellectual curiosity and community commitment Dr. Lawrence has cultivated.

Her presence at Sarah Lawrence College and throughout the community will surely be missed. I know I will miss her friendship and leadership. I wish Dr. Lawrence nothing but the best on her next ventures.

Shelley Mayer
Member, New York State Assembly

India Nicholas ’09

I was lucky enough to score a coveted seat in Karen's first-ever class at Sarah Lawrence. Back in 2008, that was unprecedented! A president teaching at a seminar level was such a special opportunity, and I thought it might never happen again. (In my case, that was true, though, of course, Karen thrived in the setting and continued to teach at SLC over her years as president.) I knew very little about James Joyce, but as a creative writing student, I knew I couldn't pass up a chance to study Ulysses with an expert. Over the course of the semester, Karen ignited a passion in all eight of her students for Joyce's beautifully complex novels and short stories. She led us in discussions and to discoveries that felt revolutionary, especially as a senior who was trying to soak up SLC for all it was worth. I have a very fond memory of Karen hosting the class at her house for a traditional Irish dinner one night, during which she shared stories of the many trips she's taken to Ireland in Joyce's honor. In fact, that dinner inspired me to book my own trip. After graduation, I flew to Dublin and spent a week exploring Joyce's stomping grounds with my mom (one of the most special and rewarding trips of our relationship). We are both so grateful for the inspiration! Over the years since graduation, Karen has taken time out of her busy schedule to greet me for multiple catch-ups on campus: once to offer a written recommendation and some sound advice on applying for graduate school, and once just to drink tea and say hello. Karen truly embodies what I love most about Sarah Lawrence: a passion for reading and writing mixed with a passion for friendship. Karen has been so kind and generous with her time and her talents. I feel very lucky to have been able to soak up a little of both.

India Nicholas ’09
Former Karen Lawrence Class Member, “Who’s Afraid of James Joyce?”

Rochelle Odesser, Former Board President, Beczak Environmental Education Center

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet President Karen Lawrence and to work with her and the staff at Sarah Lawrence to make our affiliation with the College so smooth. As president of the board of directors of the Beczak Environmental Education Center for many years, it had been a struggle to maintain the resources needed to meet our financial commitments, and our mission was not being realized. Only through the affiliation with Sarah Lawrence has that been accomplished. The enthusiasm of all involved in making this happen was more than enough to overcome any obstacles.

I thank President Lawrence for her leadership and sense of purpose in bringing this together and making this work so well.

Rochelle Odesser
Former Board President, Beczak Environmental Education Center

Alexandra “Sasha” Pezenik ’13

In first considering how to write about Karen Lawrence—a woman, scholar, mentor, and leader for whom I keep a great deal of respect—my first thought was to find some fitting James Joyce passage, thinking his eloquence could frame my admiration far better than I could. However, when I considered which quote to use, there was a problem. So many quotes seemed right, it would have been more practical just to wrap Ulysses up with ribbon and say: “Here. This is how I esteem you!”

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Karen Lawrence as both the president of my alma mater and as a professor. I can best reflect on her by recalling her lust for literature—and how she imparts that thrill to others. In her teaching, she always encouraged us to revolt against artifice and delve deeper in the text with both heart and mind, play more with our analysis, and get altogether eyeball-deep in thinking. Moreover, she taught the importance of every student’s journey toward our own Ithaca.

Her intellectual warmth and passion give life to the words she studies and make her deliciously ineluctable from the work she produces. She glows with incisive understanding; her excitement for the happy intellectual hunt—plain. In speaking together, her eyes seem to sparkle with a canny excitement that makes you feel as though literary interlocution were a banquet laid out between you. A true member of Joycean scholars’ elite cadre, Karen always encouraged us to experience—not just dissect—the books we read: Shut your eyes and see.

In times of discord, whether in how to helm the College—or how to weather the political tempest our country now sails—she’s kept an even keel. Moreover, she’s had the guts to challenge executive action when it threatens to shake core values of human decency, freedom from discrimination, and freedom of expression.

It’s this freedom of expression, enlightened individualism, and thirst for knowledge for which Sarah Lawrence has always been the fertile crescent; Karen’s dedicated service, no small part of our success. I’m honored to know her.

Alexandra “Sasha” Pezenik ’13
Former Karen Lawrence Class Member, “Who’s Afraid of James Joyce?”

Frederic Richter ’10

I first met Karen Lawrence during the transition year, sometime in 2007, when I was a sophomore at the College. At the time, I was a writer at The Phoenix, and had a number of interactions with her and her office that year for various articles and quotes. I was truly touched by her, and her office’s warmth and openness. Beyond Karen’s humble, courteous nature and her candor to speak openly with me, a young student journalist, she was remarkably approachable to everyone. Her support and inclusion toward Student Senate, student groups, and the student body at large was unprecedented. Karen genuinely cared about the students and everything SLC stood for.

I always identified especially with Karen, as I felt as though her first year as president was also my first “real” year at SLC. In my first year I was on a reduced course load, but it was in my second year, and Karen’s first, that I truly felt integrated with the College. It was in my junior year that I was editor-In-chief of The Phoenix and had the opportunity to cover Karen’s strategic plan. In my senior year, I encountered a setback, when just a few months before graduation it appeared as though I would be unable to receive my diploma due to a recently passed bill in the New York State Legislature. When Karen and her office learned of this, they were able to get me a special exemption from New York State, so I was able to graduate and receive my diploma with my classmates in 2010, which meant everything to me.

After I graduated, I felt even closer to Karen, and would very often see her at alumni events, including in Los Angeles, where I was studying in graduate school. As a student at Sarah Lawrence, I was able to truly understand SLC’s shortcomings, which made me even more amazed by how much Karen was able to achieve for the school. I am so incredibly grateful for everything that Karen has given both me personally and Sarah Lawrence as a whole. When one looks at how much the College has grown since 2006 when I started, and a year before she did, I cannot lie, I am a little jealous of the opportunities the current and incoming students will have, thanks to Karen’s hard work. She will be greatly missed.

Frederic Richter ’10
Former Student Journalist, The Phoenix

Stephen Schafer, Vice President for Finance & Operations

Karen Lawrence, whom I consider to be both a mentor and a friend, is a visionary leader and champion for liberal arts education. I will always appreciate and admire Karen’s skills as a thoughtful, considerate, and strategic leader as well as her enthusiasm and willingness to help instill those valuable skills in others. I am honored to have worked with Karen on many projects, including, most recently, the construction of the College’s first campus center, which would not be possible without her clear and compelling vision of how it will enhance the daily community life of the College for years to come.

Stephen Schafer
Vice President for Finance and Operations

Vijay Seshadri, Writing Faculty

I have always admired and been amazed by the steadiness emanating from Karen during these years of her tenure, when the College was rocked by the financial crisis of 2008 and had to shift constantly and adjust and go into and out of and back into crisis mode regularly. In all the many different places I have encountered her—in social settings, in tense faculty meetings, in committees when the school was making policy—she has displayed a consistency, a clarity of being, a flexibility of thought, an absence of fear or frenzy that has made me feel that things would work out, as they always have. She is confident and passionate about the larger enterprise of humanism to which the College is dedicated. This confident passion, distributed to us through her presence and leadership, has made any difficulty we were facing seem momentary and adventitious. Karen has never not been cheerful. Her cheerfulness is existential and profound. She has never not been deeply intelligent, and the intelligence that shines out of her eyes has been just the stabilizing force Sarah Lawrence needed through these challenging years.

Vijay Seshadri
Writing Faculty, Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Kanwal Singh, Dean of the College

The College has undergone quite a few changes during Karen’s tenure and has grown in new ways while maintaining its traditional strengths. One of my favorite collaborations with Karen was our “road show” regarding the College’s new assessment instrument, implemented in 2013. Over the course of a year or so, we had several interviews and presentations that we did together. Watching her speak about the important work done at the College and its ability to meet challenges posed by legislative and market forces while remaining true to its core mission was very inspiring. Karen’s deep respect for the educational mission of the College was palpable in every word.

Kanwal Singh
Dean of the College

Mike Spano, Mayor, Yonkers, New York

It is a great pleasure to reflect on the impressive tenure of Sarah Lawrence College's 10th president, Dr. Karen R. Lawrence. Serving as president, she has bestowed her many talents to enhance the College's unique educational philosophy, which will have lasting impacts on the College and beyond.

As mayor, I am deeply proud of the contributions Sarah Lawrence College has made to its local community in Yonkers. President Lawrence has been instrumental in introducing new initiatives in environmental studies at the College. In June 2013, together, we launched the Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River at Beczak, the College's first academic research facility beyond its campus. Today, the center provides an extensive curriculum of interactive environmental educational programs including experiential classroom and field-based programs for students K-12, intensive college credit courses, and professional development for teachers.

It takes a very dedicated person to ensure that a college of Sarah Lawrence's stature continues to exhibit prestige and excellence for generations. I want to share with you an excerpt from Chris Hadfield's An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth:

“Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It's about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others' success, and then standing back and letting them shine.”

President Lawrence, thank you for the opportunities you have introduced to your students and the City of Yonkers. You are a shining example of what dedication and hard work yields. Like you, I firmly believe that there is nothing more important than providing our children the educational opportunities they deserve. I wish you the best of luck with all your future endeavors. Thank you to Sarah Lawrence College, faculty, staff, and alumni for your tireless efforts in offering the very best in education. I look forward to continuing our partnerships and all future initiatives in the City of Yonkers!

Mike Spano
Mayor, Yonkers, New York

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, New York State Senator

President Lawrence has demonstrated resilience and determination in her efforts to strengthen the relationship between the College and the community, and both are better because of her. The work she has done will resonate among the people of Westchester for years to come.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins
New York State Senator, 35th District
Senate Democratic Leader

Eugene M. Tobin, Senior Program Officer, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The college presidency may be no way for an adult to make a living, as the late Yale University President A. Bartlett Giamatti once observed, but a successful presidency requires an unusual combination of qualities—integrity, compassion, resiliency, and a long-term collaborative vision that sustains a campus community during the best and worst of times. Karen Lawrence embodies these qualities, and she has brought grace, humility, wit, and an uncommon generosity of spirit to her work at Sarah Lawrence and the wider ecosystem of higher education.

At Mellon, my colleagues and I have had the great pleasure of working with Karen, always in close collaboration with her colleagues, in revitalizing the faculty, internationalizing the curriculum, expanding undergraduate research opportunities, creating cultural partnerships with local and global institutions, foregrounding environmental studies, and strengthening interdisciplinary teaching and learning. Each opportunity has been marked by Karen’s unfailing awareness that a liberal arts education is a privilege that should be accessible to all students and that the College has a social and cultural role to play in strengthening democratic institutions and in preparing students to live in and contribute to a diverse and global society.

It is true, of course, that distinguished liberal arts colleges live on beyond their presidents’ terms in office, but these institutions grow from strength to strength when they enjoy stability of leadership. In serving the Sarah Lawrence community with uncommon distinction, courage, and devotion, Karen has fulfilled one of liberal education’s most enduring missions—strengthening our democracy by educating its future citizens and leaders. On behalf of higher education’s philanthropic community, thank you, Karen. Godspeed.

Eugene M. Tobin
Senior Program Officer for Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation