The Lesley community came together this morning, packing Alumni Hall in expectation for the first formal meeting with our next president, Janet L. Steinmayer, whose tenure as the university’s seventh president officially begins in July.
Steinmayer is no stranger to Lesley. A longtime member of the Board of Trustees, she first came here about a decade ago with her son as he enrolled in our Threshold Program.
“This is where my journey with Lesley began,” Steinmayer said, indicating Alumni Hall. “It was the first time my son felt deeply embraced and empowered” in a school environment.
Lesley’s newest president said that experience, in addition to her work on the board and her knowledge of Lesley’s mission, will help focus much of her energy and efforts on making the university a more inclusive environment that fosters and supports affiliation with the school among alumni, as well as present students, staff and faculty.
Her mission, Steinmayer says, is to ascertain “how we can make Lesley a touchstone, a place they come back to.”
Steinmayer has a wealth of leadership and business experience serving in critical management roles, from general counsel to president and chief executive officer. She served as CEO of Centerplate, Inc., one of the largest sports and convention center hospitality companies in America, as well as senior vice president of external affairs and general counsel for Trans World Airlines (TWA). Steinmayer received a bachelor of arts degree in English and history (magna cum laude and with honors) from Bryn Mawr College, and a doctor of jurisprudence degree from the University of Chicago.
As president of Mitchell College, Steinmayer has led a transformational period in which the college built a strong financial foundation, clarified its distinct mission and developed a campus master plan that illuminates the history of the campus and addresses the future. Under her leadership, Mitchell developed a unique, ability-driven educational experience designed to make higher education accessible to many who might not otherwise reach their potential through formal education. Steinmayer also fostered strong community partnerships to give students opportunities to learn skills and abilities relevant to today’s workplace.
“We sought a visionary and committed leader,” said Board of Trustees Chair Hans Strauch, one who shared Lesley’s commitment to collaboration, innovation, scholarship and social justice.
Among the challenges Steinmayer is ready to tackle, she said, are developing a strong financial model where stakeholders “are more empowered by the budget,” and to amplify the enthusiasm for the Lesley’s work and contributions “that make society tick.”
The new president also plans to capitalize on Lesley’s “enviable place” in Cambridge as a means of better serving students and enhance the community at large through our “laser focus on (the) human and visual arts.”
“There is no doubt that the potential to be even more than we are today is there,” she said.
Steinmayer succeeds interim President Richard Hansen, a longtime educator who has served in the role since Sept. 1, 2018, after previously serving as interim provost and interim dean of the Graduate School of Education. Hansen, who is retiring in July, welcomed Steinmayer to the presidency, saying she now had the chance to view the university “from a whole new perspective.”
“This community cares deeply about our mission,” Hansen said, adding that Steinmayer’s experience on an extremely student-focused Board of Trustees, as well as her wealth of experience inside and outside of academia, betoken a keen ability to “build trust” among the Lesley community.
Lesley alumna and board member Michelle N. O’Brien ’82, chair of the Presidential Search Committee, applauded the decision of the panel in selecting Steinmayer.
“We were thrilled to select an accomplished woman to lead Lesley at this time,” O’Brien said. She cited the new president’s “clarity of thinking,” analytical skills, service on the board and “unique combination of business skills” and commitment to Lesley’s ideals of social-justice-informed innovation and academics.
Assistant Professor Kimberly Lowe, a member of the search committee, also spoke about Steinmayer’s leadership and ability to create a “seamless and unique identity that lets an organization punch above its weight.”
Chair Strauch set the tone of the proceedings earlier in the reception, saying, “This is an exciting and critical time in Lesley University’s evolution, and Janet’s experience managing complex organizations and her proven success at Mitchell College are the perfect fit for this point in Lesley’s history and our ongoing strategic initiatives.”
Strauch also underscored the mood of conviviality and expectation, contrasting it with the gloomy May Day weather outside.
“The sun is shining in this room today,” he said.