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President's News

Wells college Board of Trustees Names Thomas E. J. de Witt as Interim President

The Wells College Board of Trustees has named Thomas E. J. de Witt, Ph.D., interim President through the 2014-15 academic year. Wells College President Lisa Marsh Ryerson announced her retirement in the fall and will conclude her nearly 20-year presidency this summer.

“We’re delighted to welcome Dr. de Witt to the College,” said Stanley J. Kott, chair of the Wells College Board of Trustees. “His wealth of experience and the quality of his leadership will be valuable assets as he leads Wells through this transition. The Board and I look forward to working with him and the campus community as we seek innovative and exciting solutions to the College’s challenges.”

Dr. de Witt will begin his service on August 5, 2013, bringing over 40 years of higher education leadership to the position. “It is an honor to be selected as the interim President of Wells College. I am excited to join the College, and I will bring a strong focus to both finances and program in my work as I engage the entire campus community. The College’s rich history and traditions will provide an important foundation upon which we will build Wells’ future,” he said.

Dr. de Witt began his career in higher education in 1971 teaching history at institutions in the United States and Canada, including Queen’s University and Wellesley College (MA), before serving as director of finance for Regis College (MA) and then executive vice president for finance and administration and chief operating officer at Endicott College (MA). Dr. de Witt went on to hold the presidency at Lasell College in Newton, MA, from 1988 to 2007, where he was named President Emeritus. He also previously served as a consultant providing budget analysis and policy options for the city of Boston.

Dr. de Witt’s key achievements include repositioning a college from an open-admission two-year women’s college into a competitive coeducational baccalaureate and master’s degree-granting institution with an innovative curriculum; leading efforts to substantially increase enrollment; generating successful growth in fundraising programs, including endowment growth; eliminating budget deficits and producing surpluses; and conceptualizing, developing and managing an internationally acclaimed retirement community with an integrated academic focus.

Dr. de Witt earned his undergraduate B.A. from the University of Manitoba, an M.A. from the University of Virginia, a Ph. D. in history from the University of Virginia, and an M.B.A. in public management from Boston University’s Public Management Program.  He has published and presented on German history in various academic arenas, has held Woodrow Wilson and Virginia-Wilson Doctoral Fellowships, and has been elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Beta Gamma Sigma (business management honors society), and Phi Beta Kappa Fellows.

He is a member of the Board of Overseers of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, honorary co-chair of Lasell College’s Heritage Society, and a founding director and past secretary of the New England Education Insurance Association. He has served as member of the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, consultant to the American Optometric Association Council on Education, chairman of the Business Affairs Committee of the Northeast Consortium of Colleges and Universities of Massachusetts, trustee of Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, MA, and is active in church governance. Dr. de Witt is married to Margaret E. Ward, Ph.D., professor emerita of German at Wellesley College.

Dr. de Witt comes to Wells College through the Registry for College and University Presidents. Founded in 1992, the Registry is the country's premier interim leadership placement firm in higher education, placing interims at the presidential and senior administrators' level in all of the major areas of administration.

Outgoing President Lisa Marsh Ryerson, also a 1981 graduate of Wells, will remain with the College for a sabbatical year in which she will work with the Board of Trustees on key institutional initiatives.
May, 2013

Wells College President Lisa Marsh Ryerson Announces Retirement

President Lisa Marsh Ryerson has announced that she will retire from the presidency of Wells College. While she will conclude her active term as President at the end of this academic year, she will remain with the College for a sabbatical year in which she will work with the Board of Trustees on key institutional initiatives.

For Ms. Marsh Ryerson this marks the culmination of a 28-year professional career at Wells. After graduating cum laude with a major in English in 1981, she served as the College’s assistant director of admissions and associate dean of students before completing her master’s degree at the State University of New York at Cortland and four years teaching public school. Ms. Marsh Ryerson returned to Wells in 1991 to serve as dean of students, executive vice president and acting president before the Board appointed her to the presidency in 1995.

Ms. Marsh Ryerson has served as Wells’ President since February, 1995. She is the College’s 17th President and the first alumna to hold the position. During her tenure she has led the College’s efforts that resulted in substantial improvements to the campus; the revitalization of commercial properties in the village of Aurora; a successful transition to coeducation; the launch of an endowed Center for Business and Entrepreneurship; and expanded programs and opportunities for students. During Ms. Marsh Ryerson’s presidency the College has also seen a 32% increase in overall enrollment; nine of the largest gifts in the College’s history; and enjoyed consistently high national rankings.

Reflecting on her career at Wells, Ms. Marsh Ryerson says, “Serving Wells, including the past 18 years as President, has been my life’s work and a great joy. Moreover I am incredibly proud of the advances the College has made. Together with my enormously talented and dedicated colleagues on the Board, the faculty, and the staff, we have accomplished much. Each generation of students has energized my work, and I am deeply grateful to have had the support of many alumnae and alumni, generous donors, friends and neighbors, and the higher education community. I am confident Wells is poised for a wonderful future, and as an alumna, I will remain connected to my alma mater and the many relationships I have made along the way.”

President Ryerson has strengthened the national profile of Wells through her active participation in numerous state and national organizations. Among those, she has served as board chair for the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities of New York State, the Women’s College Coalition, and the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN). Her executive committee affiliations have included: the Council of Independent College; the Middle States Commission on Higher Education; and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, for whom she chaired their accountability committee. She is currently serving on the NCAA Division III President’s Council and as vice-chair of the North Eastern Athletic Conference President’s Council.

In addition, President Ryerson has built important local and regional partnerships through her service, including: as advisory board chair for the Finger Lakes Cultural and Natural History Museum; as a trustee of Auburn Community Hospital; on the leadership council of the Cayuga Fund of the Community Foundation of CNY; on the Central New York Advisory Board of  HSBC Bank; as a  director of the Metropolitan Development Association; on the executive committee of the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce; as vice-president of the board of Seven Lakes Girl Scout Council; and as a founding board member of Peachtown Elementary School in Aurora.

Her accomplishments have earned her numerous awards, including recognition by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Girls Inc. of Central New York, the Public Relations Society of America, and the New York State Senate. In 2010, the State University of New York awarded her an honorary doctorate degree at Cortland College’s commencement ceremony.

Stanley Kott, of Auburn, NY, Chair of the College’s Board of Trustees has praise for Ms. Marsh Ryerson’s leadership, “The Board is grateful to Lisa for both the quality and length of her service and dedication to Wells. Lisa has served the community with extraordinary dedication delivered with sincerity. At a time when the average college president's tenure is seven years, Wells has been tremendously fortunate to have had the benefits of Lisa's energy, talent and commitment for nearly two decades. She has accomplished much on behalf of the College especially as higher education faced the challenges of rising costs, changing student wants and needs, and the recent global economic turmoil, and she has led the institution with integrity, strength, and grace. As we neared the end of her current contract, she had let us know that it was time for her to consider the next phase of her remarkable and productive life. She has positioned the College for an exciting future and thankfully will devote her sabbatical year to matters of mutual interest as we determine just what that future will look like.”

Mr. Kott has noted that the Board will establish a Presidential Transition Committee comprised of representatives of the Wells community. Its first duty will be to search for an interim President for the 2013-14 academic year allowing the College ample time to search for its next leader.
August, 2012

President Ryerson signs the American College Climate Commitment

Wells College President Lisa Marsh Ryerson today signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment during a ceremony attended by College trustees, students, faculty, and staff.

In signing the Presidents Climate Commitment, Wells becomes a leader in the effort to reduce global warming emissions. The College also joins an expanding national movement in which institutions of higher learning pledge to set a positive example in the fields of environmental ethics and sustainability.

"Today, our nation and our world face overwhelming evidence that the climate of the planet is changing, and scientific consensus says that human beings are largely responsible for that change," said President Ryerson in her remarks. "Experts have pointed to the devastating social, political, economic, and ecological consequences of unchecked climate change. In signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment today, I acknowledge, on behalf of Wells College, that something needs to be done—and that this something can, and must, begin with us."

To date, nearly 600 institutions of higher education across the country have signed the agreement. After pledging to the Climate Commitment, colleges and universities develop an action plan to become carbon neutral over the course of two to three years. President Ryerson will guide Wells College in the formulation and implementation of such a plan.

"In signing the Climate Commitment, I am pledging to lead Wells in the development of a comprehensive plan for campus climate neutrality—meaning that the College will have no net greenhouse emissions," said President Ryerson. "We will complete that plan within two years, and we will initiate actions during those two years of planning in order to reduce greenhouse emissions in the short term. Finally, we will make our plan, and our progress, available to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, who will make both available to the public."

Wells College is already on the road to climate neutrality. As part of ongoing environmental efforts, the College has reduced the use of paper through strategic printing and electronic filing of documents, instituted a single strain recycling system, uses biodegradable and recyclable food containers in campus dining outlets, and purchases a portion of its electricity from renewable sources. The College has also submitted two national grant proposals for support in implementing additional sustainability initiatives.

For more information about Wells' commitment to climate neutrality, please contact Director of Publications and Media Relations Kelly Tehan by calling 315.364.3260. Additional information about the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment may be found online at

October, 2008


Wells College Becomes Smoke-Free

New policy considers health and wellness of constituents

In its continual effort to promote the health and well-being of its community, Wells College becomes a non-smoking campus today.

"Our discussion and research led us to the conclusion that Wells College will be a healthier, more comfortable living and working environment as a smoke-free campus," said Wells President Lisa Marsh Ryerson. "In doing so, we join many other colleges, universities, hospitals and workplaces in recognizing the public health and safety benefits of a smoke-free environment."

Associate Dean of Students for Residence Life Joel McCarthy attended the Central New York College Tobacco Policy Summit at LeMoyne College in Syracuse earlier this spring. Representatives from about 30 New York colleges and universities were present to discuss campus tobacco and smoking polices, and to learn more about national trends.

"Many schools currently do not allow smoking in their residence halls or academic buildings, and more and more campuses have begun implementing smoke-free and even tobacco-free polices," said McCarthy. "Cazenovia College, SUNY Upstate Medical University, and Onondaga Community College have all recently implemented smoke-free policies on their campuses, and Wells will become non-smoking this summer. I attended the Tobacco Summit to explore ways to make this transition a successful one for students, staff, and faculty alike."

Wells College has a long-standing commitment to health and wellness. The College offers "healthy lifestyles" living options in its residence halls, boasts a state-of-the-art fitness center, created the Coalition for a Sustainable Wells this year, and will introduce a Sustainability Learning Community model in the 2008-09 academic year; eight students selected to participate in the Learning Community will focus on civic engagement, social responsibility, and the environment.

"Our new smoking policy reflects the College's commitment to wellness and its mission to 'think critically, reason wisely and act humanely'," explains McCarthy. "Numerous programs and resources will be available for students, faculty, and staff who wish to quit smoking, and off-campus smoking areas will be identified for individuals who choose to smoke."

July, 2008


Wells Welcomes Cayuga Lake Watershed Network to Aurora

Wells partners with regional agency; CLWN makes new home on campus

In keeping with its commitment to the liberal arts and in recognition of the need for leaders in scientific and environmental studies initiatives, Wells College and the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network are collaborating in new ways. Wells President Lisa Marsh Ryerson recently announced that the Watershed Network will move its offices into Zabriskie Hall this summer. The three-story building on the College's campus will provide the Network and its staff with office space and a central location with ready access to Cayuga Lake.

"This is an exciting time in the history of our relationship with the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network," said President Ryerson. "Wells has been actively involved with the Network for a number of years, and we are delighted that they will bring their headquarters to Aurora. I look forward to welcoming my Network friends and colleagues to the Wells campus, and am excited about continuing our collaboration as we seek ways to protect one of our most valuable regional assets – Cayuga Lake."

The Cayuga Lake Watershed Network (CLWN) was founded in 1998 in Ithaca, and is currently operating from Interlaken. CLWN seeks to protect and improve the ecological health, economic vitality, and overall beauty of the watershed through education, communication, and leadership. The Cayuga Lake watershed covers more than 850 miles and is spread over seven counties: Cayuga, Seneca, Tompkins, Cortland, Ontario, Schuyler, and Tioga.

As CLWN enters its second decade of water resource stewardship in the Finger Lakes, it was determined that a change of location was necessary for the community-based, not-for-profit organization.

"I am delighted to have this opportunity to expand our services and move to the Aurora and Wells community," said CLWN treasurer and founding director Bill Shaw. "We look forward to enhanced collaboration with the broader community and are deeply grateful for Wells' generosity and support of our programs."

Wells' collaboration with CLWN began several years ago. Professors of Biology and Environmental Studies Thomas Vawter and Niamh O' Leary are both engaged with CLWN and its partner group, the Cayuga Lake Watershed Intermunicipal Organization, which bring together representatives from the counties that comprise the Cayuga Lake watershed.

One of the most popular programs offered by these agencies is the The Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom Project. The M/V Haendal, a 43-foot steel boat also known as "the floating classroom," provides direct access to Cayuga Lake for middle school, high school, and college students to learn about the lake and directly interact with the natural world in intellectually and experientially rewarding ways. The Haendel stops frequently at the Wells College dock to take students out on the water for ecological studies and water monitoring, coupled with shoreline activities focusing on stream ecology, watershed concepts, storm-water runoff, global climate change, and other topics.

The CLWN is expected to move into Zabriskie Hall at Wells College on August 1. New contact information for the organization will be released at that time.

May, 2008


Wells College Receives President's Honor Roll Award for Service

School Honored for Distinguished Community Service

The Corporation for National and Community Service has named Wells College to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for exemplary service learning programs.

Launched in 2006, the Community Service Honor Roll is the highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its commitment to service learning and civic engagement. Honorees for the award were chosen based on a series of selection factors including scope and innovativeness of service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service, and the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses.

Wells was among the 12% of colleges and universities honored in this way. In total, 528 schools were recognized. A full list is available at

"I am delighted that Wells College has been nationally recognized for our commitment to community service," said Wells President Lisa Marsh Ryerson. "Wells has long been a leader in instilling the principles of community service in students as we provide opportunities for their active involvement, both domestically and abroad."

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is a federal agency that improves lives, strengthens communities, and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. CNCS administers Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America, a program that supports service learning in schools, institutions of higher education, and community-based organizations.

"College students are tackling the toughest problems in America, demonstrating their compassion, commitment, and creativity by serving as mentors, tutors, health workers, and even engineers," said David Eisner, chief executive office of CNCS. "They represent a renewed spirit of civic engagement fostered by outstanding leadership on caring campuses."

In congratulating the winners, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said, "Americans rely on our higher education system to prepare students for citizenship and the workforce. We look to institutions like these to provide leadership in partnering with local schools to shape the civic, democratic and economic future of our country."

The Honor Roll is jointly sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service, through its Learn and Serve America program, and the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, USA Freedom Corps, and the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation.

February, 2008


Wells College Dedicates New Science Building

Celebrating Connections ~ Stratton Hall officially opens during September 27-29 activities

Wells College President Lisa Marsh Ryerson is pleased to announce that the Wells community will "Celebrate Connections" during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the College's newest campus addition - the 45,000 square foot science facility. Ann Wilder Stratton '46 Hall, named for the Wells alumna whose bequest in excess of $9 million helped the College reach fundraising goals, will be formally dedicated on Saturday, September 29 at 3:00 p.m.

"The opening of Stratton Hall heralds a new era of science education at Wells College," said President Ryerson. "Wells has a long and proud history of educating students in the sciences within our rigorous liberal arts curriculum. The new facility supports our quality program and the faculty-student learning relationship which is at the heart of the Wells experience."

A series of celebration events will begin on Thursday, September 27 and run through the weekend. Highlights include:

Talk and book signing by best-selling writer Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair; 7:00 p.m. Thursday, September 27
Science Colloquium presentation by Dr. Margaret "Peggy" Pericak-Vance, Wells class of 1973, director of the Miami Institute for Human Genomics and professor at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine; 12:30 p.m. Friday, September 28
Open house and multidisciplinary demonstrations throughout Stratton Hall by Wells faculty and students; 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. Friday, September 28
Keynote address by veteran science correspondent Ira Flatow of NPR's "Science Friday;" 3:00 p.m. Saturday, September 29
Official ribbon-cutting ceremony; 4:00 p.m. Saturday, September 29
Details are available at . The public is invited to "Celebrate Connections" with the Wells community.
After nearly a decade of fundraising, a groundbreaking ceremony for the new science facility was held on April 28, 2006, which included remarks by Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), chair of the House Science Committee, and Dr. Abraham Lackman, president of the Council on Independent Colleges and Universities; and a panel discussion on the critical importance of science education.

Stratton Hall is a three-level, L-shaped structure which features flexible classroom and lab spaces to support courses developed for science majors and non-majors. The building also houses faculty offices and a multi-functional 92-seat lecture hall, named in honor of former Wells Board chair Margie Filter Hostetter, Wells class of 1962. The lecture hall and several other major spaces, including a two-story light-filled atrium, were designed to be attractive to students and to accommodate needs across academic disciplines, such as introductory course lectures, college symposia, and public presentations and events.

"This semester, more than 30 different classes, including math, first-year seminars, and anthropology are being conducted in Stratton Hall," said President Ryerson. "This is truly a multidisciplinary facility."

Creation of the building's concept and design was a collaborative effort - Wells faculty identified needs for teaching space and HOLT Architects of Ithaca, N.Y. designed the facility. LeCesse Construction Company of Rochester, N.Y. erected the building on time and within its $19 million budget. Ryerson noted, "We were pleased to with work with local vendors of such high caliber as well as have an economic impact of this magnitude in our region."

"It is a joy to be teaching in Stratton Hall," said Professor of Chemistry Christopher Bailey of Aurora. "Wells has always had excellent faculty and strong science programs, and now we have a space that will better reflect this. From the technology-rich classrooms, to the discipline-appropriate teaching labs, to the smaller undergraduate research labs, Stratton Hall was designed to allow us to use our teaching skills to their fullest."

September, 2007


Wells College Joins Higher Ed Consortium

New online resource features career opportunities at 23 New York State colleges and universities

President Lisa Marsh Ryerson recently announced that Wells College has joined the new Upstate New York Higher Education Consortium (UNY-HERC). The online program is now available as a resource to effectively recruit and retain diverse and qualified faculty and staff, and assist their spouses and partners in securing area employment.

Co-led by representatives from Syracuse University and Cornell University, Wells College and 22 other upstate New York colleges and universities are working together to cohesively provide employment listings at each of their respective institutions and address dual career needs in higher education.

New York State's higher education institutions are a vital component of economic growth and development for the state and its local communities; they also provide some of the country's best career opportunities for college faculty and professionals. This new resource brings together colleges and universities across the state to provide the best information, technology, networking and outreach programs.

In addition to featuring a free, comprehensive search engine for career opportunities, UNY-HERC also provides online information on local real estate, healthcare, arts and cultural resources and childcare, along with other helpful centralized links that can assist individuals and families new to a particular area. Online users can also sign-up for e-mail alerts for the latest jobs in their field and desired location.

UNY-HERC is composed of a diverse group of public and private schools, colleges and universities across the state, independent of schools in the New York City area. Member representatives—who have helped develop the consortium since January 2006 – include faculty, staff, human resource professionals, institutional leaders and faculty relations experts from each member institution. Other regions across the United States, such as New England, Metropolitan New York/Southern Connecticut, Northern California, Southern California and New Jersey have developed similar HERC consortiums.

"The strength of the Upstate New York HERC comes from the collaboration of the provosts, vice provosts and human resources professionals at our member institutions," says Syracuse University's Camille Donabella, UNY-HERC's acting director. "We are all committed to helping each other in recruiting and retaining the best faculty and staff, and assisting dual career couples in their job search."

February, 2007


Wells College Joins New Athletic Conference

North Eastern Athletic Conference extends invitation

Wells College has received an invitation to join the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) beginning in Fall 2007, according to Wells College President Lisa Marsh Ryerson. The NCAA Division III conference currently has 12 members from New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

"I am delighted that we have been invited to join the NEAC," said President Ryerson. "It is a great opportunity for Wells students to compete in a conference whose members share a commitment to supporting talented scholar-athletes. I look forward to working with the other college presidents who make the NEAC such a strong conference," Ryerson said.

The North Eastern Athletic Conference was founded by five original members in 2004 as a way for formerly independent institutions to provide better overall experiences for student-athletes and athletic staff. NEAC membership provides automatic qualification to NCAA Division III status. Currently, the NEAC is an NCAA-recognized conference with six members from New York (Bard, Cazenovia, D'Youville, and Keuka Colleges and Polytechnic University), five from Pennsylvania (Baptist Bible College, Chestnut Hill College, Keystone College, Penn State–Berks, and Philadelphia Bible University) and one from Maryland (Villa Julie College).

In addition to Wells, two other institutions — Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa., and Penn State-Harrisburg — were invited to join the NEAC starting in the 2007-08 academic year.

The NEAC and its member institutions operate intercollegiate athletics programs that are consistent with NCAA Division III philosophy. The NEAC recognizes that intercollegiate athletics are an integral and essential part of the collegiate experience and should operate in harmony with the educational mission of its member institutions, and uphold the highest ethical standards of athletic competition.

"I am thrilled to be announcing the addition of Wells College to the North Eastern Athletic Conference," said NEAC Commissioner Candice Poiss Murray. "We are excited to have Wells join the conference because it brings strong leadership, quality women's programs with new rising men's programs, and an enthusiasm that can be heard clear across Cayuga Lake. We welcome them and look forward to their membership."

This year, the conference will have automatic NCAA qualification in baseball, men's and women's basketball, golf, men's and women's soccer, softball, men's and women's tennis, and women's volleyball. The conference also sponsors men's and women's cross-country and men's volleyball.

Teams from Wells College that will participate in the NEAC include men's and women's soccer, softball, women's tennis, and men's and women's cross-country. It will mark the first time that the Wells men's teams have participated in conference play. The Wells field hockey, men's and women's swimming and men's and women's lacrosse teams will compete as NCAA Division III independents. Several of the women's teams currently compete in the Atlantic Women's Colleges Conference (AWCC), which will dissolve at the end of the 2006-07 academic year. The College is also considering offering men's and women's basketball beginning with the 2008-09 academic year.

"Wells is very pleased to accept the invitation to join the NEAC," said Wells Director of Athletics Lyn LaBar. "The NEAC is fully committed to providing outstanding opportunities for student-athletes and fits very well within our geographical location. The NEAC is a solid match for our expanding athletics program and our student-athletes will benefit on many levels as they will have the opportunity to compete for individual, conference, and NCAA honors. Wells looks forward to becoming a full member beginning in Fall 2007," LaBar said.

September, 2006