Marc C. Conner, provost of Washington and Lee University, innovative leader of interdisciplinary academic programs and longtime advocate of diversity and inclusion, has been named the eighth president of Skidmore College.
His term will begin July 1, 2020.
“I have deep respect for what Skidmore has achieved as a model of an excellent liberal arts education, and I am tremendously excited to be part of its future,” Conner said. “The College has positioned itself in an enviable place of growth and strength. It has become more diverse. It has increased its endowment. It has become more selective. My role coming in is to put myself in service of Skidmore’s admirable mission of preparing students for lifelong learning and fulfillment.”
Conner, a widely published professor of English, has served as provost of Washington and Lee University, a private liberal arts university in Lexington, Virginia, since January 2016. As chief academic officer, he has led the university in reaffirmation of its accreditation, co-chaired its strategic planning
process and overseen the revitalization of its law school. He also established Washington and Lee’s Office of Community-Based Learning and its Center for Academic Resources and Pedagogical Excellence, created interdisciplinary programs in data science and law, is guiding the university’s $125 million science center renovation project, and steered its faculty recruitment, hiring and retention diversity project.
“Marc Conner brings to Skidmore a commitment to the integrative learning our students and faculty value,” said Nancy Hamilton ’77, chair of the Skidmore College Board of Trustees. “His extensive experience shaping academic programs across disciplines, alongside his expertise in strategic planning, positions him well to empower the Skidmore community to continue to share their knowledge, talents and perspectives with one another and the broader world.”
Conner’s selection by the Board of Trustees is the culmination of a national search by a committee that was co-chaired by Jon Achenbaum ’77 and Maxine Isaacs ’69, both members of the Board.
Prior to becoming the longest-serving provost in Washington and Lee’s history, Conner served as associate provost from 2013 to 2015. The university’s Jo M. and James M. Ballengee Professor of English, he acted as chair of the English department from 2012 to 2013 and has published extensively on modern American, African American and Irish literature.
Conner assisted faculty in the creation of hundreds of innovative and engaging new courses as the leader of Washington and Lee’s Spring Term Revitalization effort in 2010 and throughout his five-year tenure as spring term director. He also helped establish new learning objectives and assessment plans, guiding the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan to a successful conclusion.
He co-founded Washington and Lee’s African American studies program in 2007 and was the program’s director until 2012. It has since grown into the university’s Africana studies program.
A longtime advocate of diversity initiatives at Washington and Lee, Conner helped launch the Advanced Immersion and Mentoring (AIM) program, an outgrowth of the Advanced Research Cohort Program. The former is an immersive summer program for incoming first-year students that seeks to increase retention of underrepresented students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields and in other areas of study through an early research experience. He has also served as co-chair of the University Committee on Inclusiveness and Campus Climate and as a member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Planning Committee.
“Marc is a passionate spokesperson for the liberal arts. His energy, his eloquence, his irrepressible optimism and steadfast hope — especially at a time when skepticism and doubt abound — are all notable virtues. He listens; he is committed to collaboration and strives to model the patience and trust essential to building a strong community based on shared purpose,” said English Professor Barbara Black, who served on the search committee. “Marc’s genuine and impressive lifelong commitment to diversity and inclusion is evident in his teaching, his scholarship and his administrative leadership. He is a beloved teacher who still finds time, despite his administrative duties, to teach the occasional course.”
Conner joined Washington and Lee in 1996 as an assistant professor of English with specializations in American and African American literature. He created a spring term abroad program to Ireland in 2000, which he has now taught 10 times and which led to the creation of several courses in modern Irish literature.
He has also created two lecture series and is currently completing a third for The Great Courses, a series of college-level audio and video courses produced and distributed by The Teaching Company.
Conner has published dozens of essays and six books on literature, including the recently released “The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison.” He is a co-founder of the Ralph Ellison literary society and the Charles Johnson literary society and has organized multiple international symposia on Ellison.
At his core, Conner is a passionate educator, according to his colleagues at Washington and Lee, who describe him as a prolific scholar and teacher whose decisions have always been grounded in what is best for the students and the university’s overall educational mission. Fellow administrators and faculty call him a friend and a mentor whose remarkable legacy will be marked by his focus, courage, fairness, relatability and attentiveness.
Marc C. Conner and Barbara Reyes-Conner
Conner was born and raised in Tacoma, Washington, where he met his wife, Barbara Reyes-Conner. They have three sons, Matthew, Noah and Isaac. He earned bachelor’s degrees in English literature and philosophy from the University of Washington in 1989, then earned his master’s and Ph.D. in English literature from Princeton University in 1991 and 1994, respectively.
Conner said that even as an undergraduate studying literature, philosophy, music and art at a sprawling state university, he knew he eventually wanted to teach at an institution that valued an intimate liberal arts education, “where you can really inhabit that teacher-scholar-citizen model.” He added that after accomplishing that dream at Washington and Lee for more than 20 years, he is excited to contribute to Skidmore’s legacy of interdisciplinary, critical and creative thought.
“I want to thank the search committee and the Board of Trustees for the opportunity to serve as Skidmore College’s eighth president, and I also want to extend my gratitude to President Philip Glotzbach for his leadership over the past 17 years. I can’t say enough about what he and the College have been able to accomplish,” Conner said.
Achenbaum applauded the dedicated service of the search committee throughout the process, which he described as a remarkable yearlong journey.
“This talented group of 16 individuals — four faculty members, two students, two staff, including a member of the president’s cabinet, and eight trustees — worked diligently and consistently kept Skidmore’s interests and future front and center,” Achenbaum said. “I also want to acknowledge the exceptional guidance and expertise provided by our search firm, Storbeck Pimentel. We thank them all.”
Conner will succeed Glotzbach, who will retire at the end of June 2020.