Faculty and staff react to first woman interim president

Since being named interim president on March 23, Dr. Mary Meehan–who will become the  University’s first female president–has received many “welcome” and “best of luck” messages.

Outgoing President Dr. A. Gabriel Esteban said that Meehan, “is a strong and talented executive who knows this University well and is prepared to lead on day one.”  Her term officially begins on April 11.

Meehan is a respected higher-education and healthcare leader, a former University administrator and an alumna, class of 1972. She is also quickly becoming a feminine role model.

Dr. Mary Meehan graduated from Seton Hall in 1972. Photo via shu.edu.

Some female faculty members say they are encouraged by her appointment.

Dr. Joyce Strawser, dean of the Stillman School of Business, said in an email that she believes the appointment of the University’s first female president is historic.

Most previous Seton Hall presidents have been priests, and all have been men.

“In fact, the alumni and other stakeholders with whom I’ve talked have been very excited by and supportive of this appointment and clearly recognize its significance,” Strawser said.

She added that she believes that the appointment of Meehan is “just one in a number of steps that the University is taking to advance women.” She added that the appointment of Dr. Karen Boroff to the position of Interim Provost is also historic because she is SHU’s first female Provost.

“The appointment sends a very positive signal to all women in our community, especially our female students, who represent a majority of our student population,” Strawser said. “The recognition and elevation of talented women is a strong motivator for others who aspire to leadership roles.”

According to CollegeFactual.com, 57.7 percent of Seton Hall’s student community is female.

Dr. Maureen Gillette, the dean of the College of Education and Human Services, said in an email the college is proud to have one of its “outstanding alumna” serve as interim president.

Meehan earned a bachelor’s degree from the University in sociology in 1972, a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from the school in 1974, and a PhD in education in 2001, according to NJ.com.

Gillette said it is wonderful to see a female named interim president, but it is not unusual for her to see a woman assume the presidency of a university. The last institution Gillette worked at, Northeastern Illinois University, had a female president while she worked there.

“One of the things that attracted me to Seton Hall was the fact that there were so many female deans here,” Gillette said. “I appreciate having Dr. Meehan and Dr. Boroff in leadership roles and I appreciate having six other female deans as colleagues.”

Gillette said that as a female administrator, she finds all of her dean colleagues, female and male, “supportive and collegial.”

Dr. Joan Guetti, senior associate provost, said in an email that “seven of 12 deans, our Provost and some of our vice presidents are females. I would like to think that the University recognizes talent and leadership ability regardless of gender.”

Dr. Bonita Stanton, founding dean of the School of Medicine, agreed with Guetti.

“Gender is not in itself the critical element; competence, experience, warmth, inspiration and humility are the attributes in which I am interested in finding in a university’s leader,” Stanton said in an email. “From everything that I have heard about Dr. Meehan and based on my brief email correspondence with her, she is exceptional in all of these regards.”

Stanton also said that the high number of female deans at the University was noteworthy and that, “Seton Hall has already firmly established itself as a university that hires the most qualified individual, regardless of gender.”

Guetti said that she knows Meehan from her previous tenure at the University.

Guetti said that she met Meehan when they were both speaking at a Bring Your Daughter to Work Day luncheon. She said that Meehan gave a “wonderful reflection” on the life and challenges faced by Elizabeth Ann Seton.

“It made a lasting impression on me,” Guetti said. “I believe that she is a person of great faith. I also recall that she has an important trait for anyone serving in administration – a good sense of humor.”

Ashley Turner can be reached at ashley.turner1@student.shu.edu.

Author: Ashley Turner

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