Valerie Smith ’75 to be installed as Swarthmore’s 15th president on Oct. 3
Valerie Smith ’75 officially takes the helm of Swarthmore College as its 15th president during an installation ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 3, an accomplishment that was set into motion, in part, by her experiences at Bates, both as a student and a trustee of the college.
Smith, a distinguished scholar of African American literature and culture, was named Swarthmore’s president in February and began her term July 1. Prior to becoming president, Smith served as the dean of the college at Princeton University.
Smith will be the most visible yet hardly the only Bates participant in Saturday’s inauguration, which will be livestreamed beginning at 3:30 p.m.
Clayton Spencer “represents all the ways the college prepared me for the presidency of Swarthmore.”
President Clayton Spencer, one of five current or former college presidents offering remarks, will offer the official greetings from Bates.
Smith says that Spencer “represents all the ways the college prepared me for the presidency of Swarthmore. I greatly admire and respect her as a leader.”
Spencer “brings wisdom, commitment, authenticity, enthusiasm, and good humor to her role as president of Bates,” Smith adds. “Those are the qualities I hope to bring to the presidency of Swarthmore as well.”
Smith’s tenure as Bates trustee showcased her “precision, nuance, and unerring institutional judgment.”
Spencer has said that she believes Smith will make an outstanding college president, and noted last spring that Smith’s tenure on the Bates Board of Trustees allowed her to showcase her “precision, nuance, and unerring institutional judgment.”
In addition to Spencer’s participation, Sue Houchins, an associate professor of African American studies at Bates and a friend and former colleague of Smith’s, will represent Bates in the traditional procession of delegates that represent colleges, universities, and learned societies worldwide.
Smith said her journey to the helm of Swarthmore began at Bates, where she developed a “profound appreciation” for the values of the liberal arts experience.
Her Bates undergraduate experience, Smith says, gave her the “opportunity to forge close ties with faculty, to cultivate lifelong friendships, and to live and learn in a vibrant community,” and her decade-long service as a college trustee opened her eyes to the complexities and realities of running a residential college in today’s higher education environment.
As a board member, “I gained a broad overview of how a small liberal arts college operates and the types of pressures these institutions face. So both the student and the trustee experience helped prepare me for this role.”
Last spring, Smith was honored by her fellow trustees as she retired from the Bates board.
“We know that when it comes to you and your talents, things always add up in a big way,” stated her retirement citation. “In this case, it all adds up to something profound — we have gained a new, national leader in the conversation about the value of the liberal arts. Through your accomplishment, we are all lifted up.”