Connecticut College Selects Leo I. Higdon, Jr. as 10th President

Courtesy Connecticut College Media Relations

NEW LONDON, Conn. – Leo I. Higdon, Jr., president of the College of Charleston and former president of Babson College, has been named the 10th president of Connecticut College. His presidency will begin on July 1.

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to select Higdon, a former investment banker who stepped down as vice chairman of Salomon Brothers in 1993 to pursue a second career in higher education. He previously served as dean of the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia, where he held the Charles C. Abbott Chair of Business Administration. He has written and published extensively on higher education and leadership topics.

"Lee Higdon brings to Connecticut College a strong commitment to liberal arts education and exceptional experience," said Barbara Shattuck Kohn, chair of the Board of Trustees and a member of the Presidential Search Committee. "In each of his previous positions, he has helped to advance the institution to a new level of excellence, and he will do the same at Connecticut College."

Higdon said he was attracted by the college´s well-earned reputation for innovation, academic excellence and strong faculty-student relationships. "Liberal arts education teaches students to analyze, synthesize, and communicate complex information-exactly the skills they need in a globalized society. Connecticut College´s five interdisciplinary centers give students exceptional opportunities to explore topics across the boundaries of traditional disciplines. At the same time, students are gaining real world experience through internships, study abroad and community service. I look forward to working with faculty, students and staff to expand this successful approach to education and to build the facilities and programs that will best support it."

A 14-member Presidential Search Committee chaired by trustees Sally Susman and Philip McLoughlin, selected Higdon from a broad field of candidates. "In Lee Higdon, we saw an unusual blend of pragmatism and idealism," Susman said. "He is a proven leader in both liberal arts education and the business world."

Higdon, 59, an avid runner, sports enthusiast and Revolutionary War buff, received a bachelor´s degree in history in 1968 from Georgetown University and was awarded the Lambert H. Spronck Medal for outstanding achievement in academics, athletics and student leadership. Following graduation, he and his wife Ann spent two years in the Peace Corps, teaching in Malawi, Africa, where the first of their four children was born. He earned an M.B.A. in finance in 1972 from the University of Chicago.

At the College of Charleston, Higdon oversaw the institution´s growth from a regional university to a nationally-known liberal arts and sciences institution with a steadily improving student profile. He increased the number of full-time faculty, set record giving levels, and boosted the number and diversity of academic and co-curricular programs. Higdon established a Campus Master Plan and spearheaded the construction of four new academic buildings, a new athletics complex, an expanded and completely refurbished student center, a renovated student support center, and a multicultural center. Residence halls have been extensively renovated, and three new residence halls have also been added.

Under Higdon´s leadership, the College of Charleston increased the percentage of faculty from historically underrepresented minority groups to 12 percent from 9 percent and introduced new programs focused on inclusion, equity and diversity. The college recently launched a major initiative aimed at increasing student diversity.

As president of Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., Higdon doubled the endowment, increased enrollment of women and underrepresented minorities, and expanded funds for faculty research. During his presidency, Babson was ranked No. 1 for entrepreneurship among business schools by both the U.S. News and World Report and Business Week and among the top 25 business schools nationally.

As dean of the Darden School, Higdon led curriculum reform efforts, instituted an initiative in entrepreneurial leadership, established academic alliances with business schools in more than five countries, and coordinated efforts to diversify the faculty and student body. During his tenure, Darden´s endowment doubled, and he successfully completed the largest campaign in the school's history. Darden was ranked among the top five business schools by Business Week during his tenure.

Lee Higdon joined Salomon Brothers in 1973 where he became vice chairman and member of the executive committee and managed the global investment banking division. He initiated and executed four transactions recognized by Institutional Investor as "Deals of the Year."

Ann Devlin, professor of psychology and a member of the search committee, praised Higdon´s deep understanding of residential liberal arts education and his prior experience as a college president. "In his publications and speeches, he is a champion of the liberal arts," she noted. "He has led successful diversity efforts at each of his institutions, and he has been an outstanding fundraiser."

Evan Piekara, a junior at CC and a student representative to the search committee, said the committee was impressed by Higdon´s mid-career decision to leave the world of investment banking for higher education. "His deep commitment to academics and students was evident in our conversations," Piekara said.

Higdon will succeed Norman Fainstein, who became president of Connecticut College in October 2001. During his tenure, Fainstein strengthened the college´s financial position, raised $74 million, and presided over the creation of a strategic plan that focuses on a close integration of traditional academics with study away, internships, community service, co-curricular activities and other forms of experiential learning. Following a sabbatical year, which he will spend as a visiting scholar at Harvard University, Fainstein will return to the college in the autumn of 2007 as professor of sociology and urban studies.

Higdon sits on the boards of directors of Chemtura Corporation, Eaton Vance Corporation, HealthSouth Corporation, and Newmont Mining. He was formerly a board member of Georgetown University, Mt. Holyoke College, the Brooklyn Museum, and Africare.

His articles and commentaries on higher education and business topics have appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education, University Business, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Boston Globe, The Providence Journal and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Presidential Search Committee that recommended Higdon to the Board of Trustees included seven trustees, four faculty members, one staff member and two students.