Barnard President Debora Spar To Step Down In March

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A low-angle shot of Barnard Hall

barnard-gatesBarnard President Depora Spar has just announced via email that she will be stepping down from her position on March 5, 2017 in order to become President and CEO of Lincoln Center.

The email says that there will be an interim president announced shortly. The chair of Barnard’s Board of Trustees will also be putting together a search committee to find someone to fill the role.

This announcement comes at a somewhat turbulent time for Barnard’s campus with the numerous construction projects taking place in the Quad and on the new library. President Spar has also recently been receiving more criticism than usual from students who feel that Spar has not been using her voice to make a stand on important issues.

You can read President Spar’s full email below:

Dear All,

I am writing to let you know that earlier this morning I informed Barnard’s Board of Trustees of my intention to resign as President of the College, effective March 5, 2017.  Later that month, I will be moving down Broadway to become President and CEO of Lincoln Center.

As I’m sure you can imagine, this was a tough decision to make, and to announce. I love Barnard — its students, faculty, staff, and alumnae — and had fully intended to remain on campus until June of 2018, when my contract expires.  But this new role at Lincoln Center will give me an incredible opportunity to engage with the broader communities of New York City, and to think creatively about the future of one of our nation’s most precious assets:  the performing arts.

These are strange times to be embarking on such a big move.  Over the past days, I have been more impressed than ever by the importance of Barnard’s mission and the depth of this community’s commitment to women’s education, women’s empowerment, and social justice for all.  I have been deeply moved to hear our students’ concern for the world they are inheriting, and their determination to harness their energies to make it a better place. I am deeply grateful to my faculty and staff colleagues, who have rallied around our students and worked with them to explain an ever-more complicated and confusing environment.  I have been blessed to be part of this community for nine years, and to have learned from such an extraordinary group of people.

During my time at Barnard, I have had the great privilege of meeting and working with women who are truly of substance, and of grit. I have spoken with alumnae who served on battlefields and picket lines, and who led — in their own ages and ways — the fight for women’s rights.  I have read and heard the work of our incredible faculty, whose scholarship ranges from the forests of Papua New Guinea to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. And I have watched our students fight for what they believe to be true, and right, and important. All of these experiences have touched me in profound ways, forcing me to grapple with my own understanding of what it means to be a woman, and to live a life that matters. I am grateful to all of you who have both pushed me and supported me, and to everyone at the College who will continue to build Barnard’s legacy.

As I prepare to depart next semester, I realize that there is a great deal happening on campus.  None of this work will stop, or change in any meaningful ways.  Construction on our new teaching and learning center is well underway, and the project is still slated for completion in August of 2018.  Our capital campaign, The Bold Standard, is on track to reach its ambitious and unprecedented goal.  The Task Force on Divestment and Sustainability is about to complete its recommendations for the Board’s Committee on Investments, and the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion will be presenting its findings at the start of the new year.  I will be staying on until the March meeting of the Board of Trustees, which will enable me to work with the Board on both of these crucial issues.

I will also work closely with the Board to ensure a smooth and seamless transition. The intention is to announce an interim president shortly, and then to begin planning for a full-fledged presidential search. Jolyne Caruso-Fitzgerald, Chair of the Board of Trustees, will work with faculty, staff, and trustees to designate a search committee and collect input from all constituencies on campus.  She will announce further details of these plans shortly. In the meantime, the College is lucky to have a stellar senior staff in place, and I know that each of my colleagues on the President’s Council will continue to lead their areas with the wisdom and professionalism they bring to their jobs each day.

It has been my honor, and my pleasure, to serve as Barnard’s president.  The College is a special place, and its mission has never been more important than it is today.  Last week, at one of the desserts I host for seniors, a group of young women stayed on for a while, sitting in my living room and discussing how they could organize in the wake of the election to fight for climate change, and reproductive rights, and the social justice they want to see.  I was sad when they left, feeling their pain and knowing that this dessert — one of my favorite events — would be one of the last I would host.  But I was also grateful, proud, and hopeful.  Barnard students are extraordinary.  Barnard’s commitment to research, to scholarship, to teaching and mentoring, is unparalleled.  And our community will continue to shape and change the world.  Thank you for allowing me to be part of it.


Debora Spar

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