St. Lawrence University celebrated the inauguration of Kathryn A. Morris as its 19th president at an installation ceremony held on campus Saturday, October 22. In her inaugural address, she outlined her vision for new initiatives to ensure the 166-year-old University continues to thrive while preparing students for lives of global impact far into the future.
“I am pleased to announce today that one of those new initiatives is the development of our first center for excellence at St. Lawrence—a Center for the Environment, that we will launch in 2023,” President Morris said.
The new Center for the Environment will take advantage of the University’s unique location between the Adirondack mountains and the St. Lawrence River. It will capitalize on the University’s local and global commitments, with a center on campus, and ultimately outposts at its Camp Canaras on Upper Saranac Lake and its compound in Kenya. It will also leverage vast faculty, staff, and alumni expertise and engage widespread student interest.
President Morris also shared her vision with the audience assembled in Gunnison Memorial Chapel for what she calls “Laurentian Impact,” explaining that “it will take all of us, together,” including the University’s innovative, inspiring faculty and top-ranked alumni network, to build a strong future for the next generation of St. Lawrence students.
“Laurentian Impact is what happens when St. Lawrence graduates use what they learned in college to make a positive difference in the world after graduation. It’s about empowering students to discern their passions, to develop their sense of purpose, and to use their educational experiences in college—both in and out of the classroom. Laurentian Impact is about building futures that not only ensure our graduates can make a living, but also to make a life that is meaningful and that positively impacts others through their professional work, volunteer work, or civic engagement,” she said. “It is my vision that our combined Laurentian Impact will reach farther and wider than ever before in the history of our institution.”
Laurentian Impact is what happens when St. Lawrence graduates use what they learned in college to make a positive difference in the world after graduation. It’s about empowering students to discern their passions, to develop their sense of purpose, and to use their educational experiences in college—both in and out of the classroom. "
– President Kathryn A. Morris
President Morris expressed gratitude for the hundreds in attendance representing trustees, alumni, past presidents, students, faculty, staff, North Country community members, local dignitaries—including officials from the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and the village and town of Canton—former students, delegates from other institutions of higher education, friends and family members.
She also took a moment to recognize her late grandparents, only one of whom had a high school diploma, for sacrificing much to ensure their descendants were able to attend college.
“Simply put, higher education forever changed my family, both personally and in terms of our economic mobility—and that has affected us for generations,” said President Morris, who took the helm at St. Lawrence on July 1, 2021, following a distinguished career at Butler University, where she served as the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. Prior to that, she was a professor of psychology and department chair. Her areas of expertise include social psychology, the psychology of gender, research methodology, and statistics.
“You can imagine how happy I was to join St. Lawrence, a place that is known for creating this same kind of opportunity for students and their families,” President Morris continued, pointing out the University’s long history of promoting equity and access for students since its founding in 1856 as the first coeducational institution of higher learning in New York State.
Academic innovation has always been, and will continue to be, a hallmark of the University, President Morris said. St. Lawrence was one of the first schools in the nation to create an environmental studies program and is among the original pioneers of living-learning programs for first-year students. Recently, St. Lawrence launched six new majors that are grounded in the liberal arts mission and that prepare students for high-demand careers, competitive graduate schools, and meaningful service opportunities after college: pre-health chemistry, public health, biomedical sciences, data science, digital media and film, and finance.
The inauguration ceremony began with an invocation by University Chaplain, The Rev. Dr. Shaun Whitehead, following a processional led by the Brockville Pipes and Drums and Fanfare, performed by Musician-in-Residence Sondra Goldsmith Proctor. The Laurentian Singers, a student a cappella group, performed three St. Lawrence songs, including Chapel Bells, A Tribute and Alma Mater. St. Lawrence Board of Trustees Chair Michael W. Ranger’80, ’P17, delivered the official welcome and presented the University Charter. Board Vice Chair and Chair-Elect Jennifer Curley Reichert ’90 presented the Presidential Medallion.
In her keynote address, Stephenie R. Chaudoir, associate professor at College of the Holy Cross, credited President Morris, her former psychology professor, for helping her recognize and attain goals that seemed at first unimaginable.
“As a first-gen college student from a working-class family, I did not know what the letters P-h-D stood for, much less what it might mean to pursue the degree,” Chaudoir said. “And, yet, by naming what she saw in me, it made me see myself differently. It broke open the space that I needed in order to pursue the life of the mind while grounded in my own unique roots.”
Having thoroughly embraced her identity as a Laurentian over the past 16 months, President Morris has tirelessly sought opportunities to fully experience what makes a St. Lawrence education so special. She has visited signature programs like the NYC semester and the Adirondack Semester, and made a trip last March to the Kenya Semester program to mark 50 years of the University's many partnerships in Kenya. She frequently can be seen at academic events, Saints sporting events, and artistic performances on campus.