NewsOct 1, 2020

Q&A with Marylou Batt

Longtime vice president of administration leaves ‘breathtaking and prodigious’ legacy as she retires from Lesley

Group photo in front of Lunder Art Center
Marylou Batt, center, at the newly opened Lunder Arts Center in 2015.

There was the thrill of celebrating new graduates at Commencement, the frenzy and excitement of reopening campus each fall, and the tremendously hard and satisfying work of bringing transformational construction projects to life, such as the Lunder Arts Center and the Threshold Campus.

Those are just a few among countless milestones, large and small, that Marylou Batt cherishes as she retires from two decades at Lesley University.

Batt was vice president for administration and operations since 2002. Prior to that, she served as director of centers and institutes, providing leadership and coordination for the university's hubs. She has seen a lot of changes at Lesley during her tenure, but one thing has remained constant.

Marylou Batt speaking at a podium
Marylou Batt worked at Lesley for two decades, during which she oversaw the major Threshold campus renovation and the construction of the Lunder Arts Center.

“What hasn’t changed is the commitment of faculty and staff to support and encourage each and every student, and to care about each other,” said Batt, who retired from Lesley on Sept. 11.

Before her stint at Lesley, Batt was the special assistant to the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, a position she held from 1993 to 2001. She also served as the deputy secretary of Administration and Financial Affairs of the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction in Boston from 1983 to 1991. Batt earned a BA in political science from Marymount College in 1969, followed by a master’s of public administration in government and public administration from American University.

“Breathtaking and prodigious” is how Lesley President Janet L. Steinmayer explained Batt’s accomplishments.

“We are going to miss her incredibly. We need to celebrate this person who was in charge of our physical space when we can get back into our physical space,” President Steinmayer said during a virtual kick-off celebration for Fall 2020.

As her tenure at Lesley came to an end, we asked Batt to reflect on and share highlights from her time at Lesley:

Q. What are some of your favorite memories of Lesley?

A. My most favorite memories are Commencements, watching the excitement of the graduates and the pride of their families and friends. My second most favorite are end-of-year employee events where we came together to celebrate employee accomplishments and to just be together. And, finally, is the opening of the new Lunder Arts Center — it was almost 10 years in the making — but provides students with the state-of-the-art labs and equipment to help them become the best artists.

Q. Which do you consider you and your team’s greatest accomplishments? 

A. That’s a hard one. In addition to the Lunder Arts Center and state-of-the-art Digital Animation Studios, I’d say managing the “summer slammers” and having the campus ready each fall. It was hard work and everyone had to work as a team, and they did!

The other major project was building a new Threshold campus with and for Threshold by renovating four historic buildings. 

Q. What brought you to Lesley?

A. After the 2000 elections, it was clear that my position working on the signature Reinventing Government program at the U.S. Department of Transportation was ending. I did some consulting work at Boston College and decided I would like to find a position in higher ed.

Joe Moore, Marylou Batt and Stan Trecker in front of the entrance to the Lunder Arts Center
Former President Joe Moore, Marylou Batt and former Dean of the College of Art and Design Stan Trecker in front of the Lunder Arts Center

I knew and admired former Lesley President Margaret McKenna from the Carter Administration, so I decided to contact her. She offered me a position as director of centers and institutes, which I accepted. I had the privilege to work with Irene Fountas, Mary Beth Curtis and Mary Mindess, all of whom became mentors in quite different ways. A year later, Margaret appointed me vice president of administration to manage HR and the university’s facilities and auxiliary services. It was a 24/7 job, which I loved.

Q. Outside of its obvious growth, what has changed about Lesley? 

A. I think the biggest change is the expansion of the arts, both in terms of new programs and also growth in certain programs and our College of Art and Design. The “human arts” focus provides Lesley with a unique position in greater Boston. Secondly, I’d say strategic visioning and the increasing use of data and metrics to inform decision making. 

What hasn’t changed is the commitment of faculty and staff to support and encourage each and every student and to care about each other.

Q. What is the secret to building and managing great teams? 

A. First, hiring the best folks, and then listening, engaging and enabling the team and its members to do what they do best. Making sure that we provide excellent service and acknowledge successes.  

Q. What do you wish you had done differently? 

A. I wish we had developed more employee training earlier and with more continuity. I think some of the training on how to be a good manager, which was part of the High-Performance Work Initiative and the initial diversity training efforts to encourage Inclusive Excellence, were very good. We should have continued them and expanded them. We needed to focus more on listening and the importance of respect. We needed to expand training to all employees.

Q. What’s next for you? 

A. First, a little downtime mixed with some volunteer work through early November, and then I will figure it out.