ARCHIVED: Sarah Lawrence College to Inaugurate Karen R. Lawrence

Karen R. Lawrence will be inaugurated as tenth president of Sarah Lawrence College on Friday, October 5, 2007, on the College’s campus in Yonkers, N.Y. near the Village of Bronxville. Delegates representing 78 colleges and universities, including seven sitting presidents, will join more than 1,000 members of the College community, alumnae/i, and guests to celebrate the occasion.

Lawrence comes to Sarah Lawrence from the School of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine, where she served as dean—as well as professor of English and comparative literature—since 1998. A widely respected English literature scholar and teacher, she has a special interest in James Joyce, travel writing, and modern fiction. She taught English at the University of Utah from 1978 to 1997, has written or edited five books on literature, and has published widely in leading academic journals.

Lawrence attended Smith College and received a B.A. in English from Yale University. She earned a master’s degree in English from Tufts University and a Ph.D. in English, with distinction, from Columbia University. She has received numerous awards and professional accolades, including a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the Ramona Cannon Award for Distinguished Teaching in the Humanities, and the University of Utah’s prestigious Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence in Research, Teaching and Service.

Following the ceremony will be a symposium titled, “‘You Can’t Step Into the Same River Twice’: Re-imagining the Liberal Arts in the 21st Century,” which will begin at 2:30 p.m. Participants will be Nancy Cantor, alumna and chancellor of Syracuse University; Ralph Hexter, president of Hampshire College; Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College; and W. Ian Lipkin, alumnus and professor of epidemiology, Columbia University.  Pauline Moffitt Watts, alumna and dean of Sarah Lawrence College, will moderate.

Referring to the theme and title of the colloquium, Watts commented that “Heraclitus’ famous observation regarding the symbiotic relationship between continuity and change seems to capture something essential in the ongoing role that the liberal arts have played in American higher education. That is, the liberal arts are on the one hand rooted in ways of knowing whose history can be traced back to antiquity. On the other hand, these same liberal arts have changed significantly at certain points in time as they responded creatively to historical moments of rapid change in education and culture.”

Other inaugural events include a musical welcome to President Lawrence and her family on Thursday, October 4, including performances by music faculty, students and guests. Lawrence is married to Peter F. Lawrence, M.D., professor of surgery, chief of vascular surgery, director of the Gonda (Goldschmied) Vascular Center, and Bergman professor of vascular research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at U.C.L.A. The Lawrences have two children: Andy, an alumnus of Dartmouth College, and Jeff, an alumnus of Amherst College.

During the 2007-2008 academic year, President Lawrence will visit alumnae/i, parents, and friends in several cities around the country, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Palm Beach, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.

Several special events on campus will mark the inaugural year and include a presentation by dancer and author Carolyn Brown celebrating visions and visionaries in 20th century art; a celebration of the life and work of Jean Baker Miller ’48, noted psychoanalyst and author who profoundly affected the way psychology views women; a policy series focusing on global warming; a series of events addressing topics in the humanities titled “Reading the World”; and a program on the life and legacy of Rudolf Arnheim, founder of the academic field, the Psychology of Art.


Founded in 1926, Sarah Lawrence is a coeducational liberal arts college with a distinctive system of education. At the core of the system are small classes, regular one-on-one student-faculty conferences, cross-disciplinary approaches, and the integration of the creative arts within the curriculum. It is known for having one of the lowest student/faculty ratios in the country, 9:1.