Stetson University Welcomes New President

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Dr. Libby greets prospective students on her first day as president.

Dr. Libby greets prospective students on her first day as president.

Dr. Wendy B. Libby was greeted by applause, balloons and a welcome banner as she arrived at her office in historic DeLand Hall on Monday to officially begin her first day as president of Stetson University.

Formerly president of Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., Libby is the ninth president in Stetson’s 125-year history and the first woman to ever hold the post.

Arriving on campus at 9 a.m., Libby laughed at the sight of the ice scraper in her trunk as she unloaded a box of Stephens diplomas she still needs to sign. After settling into her office in historic DeLand Hall, she followed a packed schedule – getting her Stetson ID in the Carlton Student Union, being serenaded by the Campus Life staff, observing faculty and students doing snake research in the Science Center, visiting summer saxophone and volleyball camps, and greeting employees in the deans’ offices, library and other stops across campus.

Libby spoke with prospective students and their parents as they stopped outside DeLand Hall on a campus tour. After touting Stetson’s academic programs, commitments to social justice and the environment, and close interaction between students and faculty, she explained why she had chosen to come to the university.

“This is a place where people care – that was the bottom line for me,” Libby said.
The new president said she plans to “learn and listen” at the beginning of her presidency to get to know the culture of Stetson and its employees, students, alumni and other supporters. She has set up a series of planning meetings with administrative staff and faculty members this summer.

Dr. Elizabeth Paul, Stetson’s new provost/vice president for academic affairs, will start at Stetson on July 20 – a month before the Aug. 20 start of the fall semester. Libby said Paul will be charged with shaping new academic strategies to move the university forward.

“I already have a planning session scheduled for late July to begin thinking about the challenges and opportunities Stetson University has ahead of her,” Libby said. “I’m looking forward to the arrival of our new provost. It’s very important to me that we hear from all the many constituencies that love Stetson so my senior team can honor her traditions while being bold in our outlook.”

An expert in strategic planning, Libby said she plans to build on Stetson’s strong values-centered heritage and long tradition of academic excellence and community-engaged service learning. In addition to the DeLand campus, which is home to Stetson’s College of Arts & Sciences, School of Business Administration and School of Music, Stetson has a College of Law in Gulfport/St. Petersburg, the Tampa Law Center and the Stetson University Center at Celebration near Orlando.

“We’re going to think strategically about Stetson’s future, including consideration of our academic programs, our enrollment, how we provide a vibrant student life and how we manage the financial situation all colleges and universities find themselves in,” she said.

At Stephens, Libby united the campus, alumnae and community in a major strategic planning initiative that revitalized the college by reducing a multi-million-dollar deficit and dramatically increasing enrollment.

Libby has a broad career in higher education and private industry. Before her six years at the helm of Stephens, she was vice president for Business Affairs and Chief Financial Officer at Furman University, Greenville, S.C. She has 28 years of administrative and teaching experience in higher education, at institutions including Westbrook College (now part of the University of New England), the University of Hartford, the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, The Ohio State University and Cornell University.

A native of Brooklyn, Libby earned her doctorate in educational administration from the University of Connecticut. Her undergraduate degree, in Biology with a concentration in genetics, is from Cornell University. She earned an MBA, with a concentration in finance, from Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management.

The Stetson Board of Trustees in November 2008 unanimously elected Libby to succeed longtime President Dr. Doug Lee, who retired May 31. She was selected from a diverse pool of 75 applicants following a 15-month national search. Her inauguration will be held next March 20, during Stetson Homecoming 2010.