Bennington College president to bid graduates farewell

Monday May 27, 2013


Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Outgoing President Elizabeth Coleman will address this year’s graduating class during Bennington College’s 78th commencement.

Retiring in June after 25 years in office, Coleman’s tenure has spanned nearly three-times the average length of her peers and is the longest in Bennington College’s history. The time has coincided with the college’s most significant period of growth, including record levels of philanthropy, enrollment, and applicants, and an organizational restructuring in 1994.

The college’s ninth president, Coleman joins three others who’ve spoken at commencement in the year they retired, including founding president Robert Devore Leigh in 1943. In a letter last fall when she first announced her retirement, Coleman said presiding over the college had been more than she had dared to dream -- "exhilarating, tumultuous, challenging, heady" -- and always about things that mattered.

The search for a successor remains ongoing with a presidential search committee narrowing its options down to three candidates. Last month, those candidates visited the campus and met with faculty, staff, trustees, and students.

"The process has been pretty intensive," college spokesperson Brian Davidson said. The three individuals, still confidential, are described as having diverse backgrounds and interests but are passionate about the college’s vision of a liberal education.

Since December, the search committee reviewed more than 160 nominations and applications, eventually selecting eight individuals for in-person interviews. The 10-member committee is composed of trustees and faculty.

Davidson said a final announcement of the college’s next president would not be made until after commencement.

Coleman speaks to graduates at the college’s commencement dinner on Friday. The conferring of degrees takes place the next morning.

Prior to her tenure in Bennington, Coleman was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of humanities at the New School for Social Research in New York, before which she taught literature at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

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