Karen R. Lawrence has assumed the presidency of Sarah Lawrence College, widely know for its rigorous, progressive liberal arts and sciences educational program. She succeeds Michele Tolela Myers, who retired on August 1, as the College’s tenth president. Her inauguration will take place October 5, 2007.
Dr. Lawrence, a seasoned university administrator and literature scholar, comes to Sarah Lawrence College from the School of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine, where she served as dean since 1998. In this capacity she was responsible for curriculum, recruitment, fundraising, budget, and physical plant for a school of 2,500 undergraduates, 400 graduate students, 180 faculty, and 100 staff members. She is credited with a record of innovative, creative, and collaborative leadership.
“In her position at UC Irvine, Dr. Lawrence was a champion of the liberal arts, pioneering the establishment of interdisciplinary programs between the humanities, the arts and the sciences,” said Robert Riggs, chairman of Sarah Lawrence College’s Board of Trustees, of Dr. Lawrence’s tenure at UC Irvine. An energetic fundraiser, she established a number of faculty chairs and led the conception, funding, and implementation of two major centers: the International
Center for Writing and Translation, and the Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture. Among her priorities, Dr. Lawrence advocated for diversity in faculty hiring and outreach to the local community.
A widely respected English literature scholar and teacher, Dr. Lawrence has a special interest in James Joyce. She has held leadership positions in national and international professional organizations, including presidencies of the International James Joyce Foundation and the Society for the Study of Narrative Literature. She has written or edited five books on literature and has published widely in leading academic journals.
Dr. Lawrence attended Smith College from 1967 to 1969, and received her B.A. degree in English, magna cum laude, from Yale University in 1971, among the first women to graduate after Yale became coeducational. She earned an M.A. in English from Tufts University in 1973, and her Ph.D. in English, with distinction, from Columbia University in 1978.A member of the English faculty at the University of Utah from 1978 to 1997, Dr. Lawrence served as chair of the department from 1984 to 1989. In addition to her responsibilities as dean at UC Irvine she taught English and comparative literature. Throughout her career, Dr. Lawrence has received numerous awards and professional accolades, including a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the Ramona Cannon Award for distinguished teaching in the humanities, and the University of Utah’s prestigious Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence in Research, Teaching and Service.
Dr. Lawrence is married to Peter F. Lawrence, M.D., professor of surgery, chief of vascular surgery, director of the Gonda (Goldschmied) Vascular Center, and Bergman professor of vascular research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. The Lawrences have two children: Andy, an alumnus of Dartmouth College, and Jeff, a recent graduate of Amherst College.
Note: Dr. Lawrence is no relation to the College’s founding family.