My inauguration as the 19th President of St. Lawrence University was both an inflection point for the institution and a major personal milestone. In preparing for that day, I reflected deeply on my sense of purpose and vocation. With gratitude, respect, and awe, I considered the responsibility given to me by the Laurentian community.
In my inaugural remarks, I described the legacy left by my grandparents who set something life-changing in motion for their descendants. I would like to recount some of what I shared because my family’s story is so essential to who I am, and to what motivates me as an educator and leader.
Of my four grandparents, only one had a high school diploma. In fact, two of them never even got to high school. My grandmother to whom I was the closest had to leave school at the age of 12 to take a job—pasting labels on bottles.
Despite my grandparents’ lack of education, they worked hard to empower their children, my mom and dad, to attain not only a high school education, but also a college degree.
For my grandparents, it was a financial struggle to send their kids to college. They sacrificed a great deal to make it a reality. I struggle to imagine how they made it work, but they did, and I am grateful.
My parents not only finished high school, and then college, but they both have graduate degrees. And my parents both found higher education as their calling. Not surprisingly, between growing up on a college campus and having parents who were higher education professionals, my brother and I knew from an early age the importance of academic success and higher education. And now my brother and I are supporting our own children as they attain their education. In reflecting on my family history, the differences between my grandparents’ formative years and those of my children are vast, particularly when it comes to the economic conditions they experienced growing up. Simply put, higher education forever changed my family, both personally and in terms of our economic mobility—and that impact will stay with us for generations.
Higher education forever changed my family, both personally and in terms of our economic mobility—and that impact will stay with us for generations."–President Kathryn Morris
Given my history as a member of a family that was raised within the world of higher education, you can imagine how happy I was to join St. Lawrence—a place known for creating the same kinds of opportunities for students and their families as has been the case in my family.
We are recognized by U.S. News as a “top performer on social mobility,” meaning we are successful in attracting, retaining, graduating, and setting up for success students from challenging economic backgrounds. And NASPA, the student affairs organization, and the Suder Foundation have recognized us as a “First-gen Forward” institution that attracts, retains, graduates, and sets up for success first-generation students, regardless of their economic backgrounds.
Across multiple generations, St. Lawrence has a long history of success, a long list of points of pride, and a steadfast commitment to our institutional mission.
During our 166-year history, many important characteristics of the University have remained constant—our institutional mission, our commitment to academic excellence in the liberal arts, and our many Laurentian traditions.
Yet since our founding in 1856, St. Lawrence has always been in the process of becoming. Across time, academic majors have changed, co-curricular programs have come and gone; and we have invested in additions to campus infrastructure and renovations to our heritage buildings. While our grounding in our foundational values remains steadfast, we are always becoming the next best version of ourselves.
I am profoundly grateful to all of you for welcoming me over the past 18 months and for making me one of your own—a Laurentian. I look forward to what we will accomplish, all of us, together.