The St. Lawrence University Board of Trustees announced on Thursday, February 4, 2021, that Kathryn A. Morris has been selected as the University’s 19th president.
Morris comes to St. Lawrence after a distinguished career at Butler University, where she has most recently served as the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs for the past eight years. In that role, she has been responsible for leading six academic colleges, played a critical role in strategic planning, and led two Presidential Commissions on diversity and on sexual assault.
At Butler, she helped drive key institutional priorities including enrollment growth and launch of a $250 million comprehensive campaign. During the past year, she has demonstrated outstanding leadership as a key part of the COVID-19 pandemic response team at Butler and oversaw the development of the “pivot pedagogy” summer program to prepare faculty for the 2020-2021 academic year.
“Throughout the search process, Dr. Morris demonstrated a clear and compelling love for a liberal arts education,” says Trustee Marion Roach Smith ’77, chair of the Presidential Search Committee.
“The committee was captivated by her pragmatic approach to problem-solving as well as her warmth and down-to-earth connection with the constituencies most important to St. Lawrence—our faculty, students, staff, alumni, parents, and trustees.”
“I am deeply honored to join this passionate, adventurous, and welcoming community,” says Morris. “From the academic reputation to the breadth of co-curricular opportunities for students, there were so many things that made St. Lawrence an attractive place to call home. I was particularly impressed with the proactive institutional planning, including the most recent Experience St. Lawrence Task Force work, and the true commitment I saw to diversity and inclusion.”
“The committee was captivated by her pragmatic approach to problem-solving as well as her warmth and down-to-earth connection with the constituencies most important to St. Lawrence—our faculty, students, staff, alumni, parents, and trustees.” - Trustee Marion Roach Smith ’77
At Butler, Morris was at the forefront of projects, initiatives, and campaigns that required innovative thinking and affected every member of that community. She has helped guide the Butler 2020 strategic plan through development, implementation, and completion, as well as Butler Beyond, the University’s new strategic direction and comprehensive fundraising campaign. She has led initiatives to launch new innovative academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels and been closely involved in efforts that set the stage for a broader and enhanced institutional reputation at Butler, including enrollment management and fundraising initiatives.
“Dr. Morris expressed not only an interest in diversity and equity, but has tangible experience in what it takes to build a more inclusive community,” says Kimberly Flint-Hamilton, associate dean for diversity and inclusion and member of the Presidential Search Committee. Morris’ deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is evident in the leadership role she played with Butler’s 2014-2015 Presidential Commission on Diversity, as well as the adoption of a university-wide academic requirement, the campus programming she developed, and the National Science Foundation-funded research on prejudice reduction she enthusiastically pursued while a faculty member.
“Her vision of diversity, equity, and inclusion as central to academic institutions, and the way she prioritizes kindness and respect in all her interactions,” says Flint-Hamilton, “exemplify what it means to have a truly inclusive community and align with our values and goals at St. Lawrence.”
Prior to her time as provost, Morris served as a professor of psychology and was chair of that department at Butler. Her areas of expertise include social psychology, the psychology of gender, methodology, and statistics. Morris is a charter member and the first president of Butler’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and has received numerous honors and awards during her time at Butler. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Gettysburg College and both her master’s degree and Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. She has also served as a member of the board of trustees at her undergraduate alma mater since 2015.
“As a faculty member, what I find most exciting about Dr. Morris is her leadership style—intuitive and inquisitive at the same time. While she has a great sense for the challenges that lie ahead for higher education, she brings to the challenge her unique mix of innovation, compassion, problem-solving, and decisiveness,” says Ronnie Olesker, associate professor of government and member of the Presidential Search Committee. “I look forward to working collaboratively as we design the best liberal arts education to prepare Laurentians for the second half of the 21st century.”
Morris will move to Canton over the summer with her husband, Brian Giesler, who is a member of the psychology department at Butler University. They have two children: a son, Logan, who is a senior at Augustana College, and a daughter, Erin, who is a sophomore at Butler University. They will be joined in Canton by their dog, Comet, who is a black Lab mix rescue.
The search committee was unanimous in its support of Morris, as was the University’s Board of Trustees. Morris will begin her tenure on July 1, 2021. She will succeed President William L. Fox ’75, who announced his retirement in August 2020 and has served as St. Lawrence’s president since 2009.