Smith Inaugurates Kathleen McCartney as 11th President

Photo by Tziona Breitbart '16 | Bagpipers celebrated President Kathleen MCartney as they parade to the Indoor Track and Tennis Facility.  

Melissa Fares '14 Associate Editor

On Oct. 19, a bagpipe procession gathered students, faculty, staff, alumnae and others as Kathleen McCartney accepted her position as 11th President of Smith College.

The program began with music from the Smith College Orchestra that cued the academic procession, composed of the Smith faculty; the Board of Trustees; past Smith presidents, including Mary Maples Dunn, Jill Ker Conway and Carol Christ; McCartney herself; and many more.

Once everyone was seated, High Sheriff of Hampshire County Robert J. Garvey called people to order. “All You Need is Love,” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and other musical selections followed. Then an invocation and welcome ensued.

The enthusiasm for McCartney was illuminated by the greetings that followed.

Among the greeters were Alexandra Keller, an associate professor of film studies, on behalf of the faculty, Augusta Gronquist ’14 on behalf of the students, Halley Ofner on behalf of the staff, Kathleen Barnes Grant ’75 on behalf of the alumnae and Lynn Pasquerella, President of Mount Holyoke College, on behalf of the Five College Consortium. All warmly welcomed McCartney into the Smith College community, openly recognizing the profound impact she has already made at Smith and expressing their support and confidence in her future success as president.

Drew Gilpin Faust, President of Harvard University, spoke next. Her words reassured the crowd that President McCartney’s past position as Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education was more than exemplary. Speaking on behalf of the nation’s institutions of higher education, Faust said, “We are greatly enhanced by the addition of her mind, heart, and dedication.”

Inevitably, the crowd went wild when the symbols of office were presented to McCartney and when she took the floor.

McCartney’s speech began with many expressions of gratitude. All three of her mentors were in the audience, along with her family and friends. The crowd choked up when McCartney made a shout-out to her 91-year old father, who was live-streaming the speech with the help of some of his friends. McCartney said, “Dad, thank you for making my siblings and me the center of your life. You gave us the courage to explore the world in all its wonder.” The auditorium echoed with applause.

After McCartney thanked the people who have impacted her life, she told a story of a learning moment in which she observed a little girl on campus riding a bike. “Developmental psychologists like me might describe this young girl as being in a state of flow – absorbed completely in a task, with energized focus and an overwhelming feeling of joy. Learning at its best,” she said.

McCartney also clearly stated her agenda as president. “As we look to our future, four directions are clear,” she said. “First, we will embrace our mission as a women’s college... Second, we will expand the power of Smith in the world… Third, we will innovate... Our fourth direction is toward opportunity. Smith will remain committed to access, as we have been since our founding,” McCartney pledged.

McCartney concluded her speech with promise and great potential:

“At Smith, we celebrate the courage to explore the world in all its wonder. This is our legacy, and this is our future. Like the girl on her bicycle, newly balancing, our students – and we – will encounter frustrations on our path, moments of disequilibrium. These moments are gifts. These moments are opportunities. These moments afford the change that is learning. As individuals and in community, we are busy being born.”

During her address to the Smith College community, McCartney opined, “A good education encourages an individual to seek change, to risk change. A strong institution encourages its community to seek change, to risk change.” It seems as though McCartney is exactly the change Smith College both wants and needs.

You can read President McCartney’s inaugural address at You can watch the entire ceremony at