Connecticut College Board of Trustees Chair Pamela D. Zilly ’75 announced the board would honor the College’s outgoing president, Leo I. Higdon Jr., by naming the College’s fitness center after him and his wife Ann. The board will also name Higdon emeritus president upon his retirement Dec. 31 and award him an honorary doctorate.
“Lee Higdon is a visionary president whose leadership has had an extraordinary impact on Connecticut College. By naming the fitness center in the Higdons’ honor, we ensure an enduring tribute to them and the success they have been instrumental in achieving for the College,” Zilly said. “It is also very fitting to honor him with emeritus status upon his retirement and to award him an honorary degree.”
The newly named Ann and Lee Higdon Fitness Center was constructed entirely with donor funding. When it opened in 2009, it tripled the College’s exercise and wellness space and doubled the number of machines available for workout. The fitness center is considered a centerpiece of improvements made to athletics facilities during Higdon’s presidency. These include reconstruction of the south tennis courts; installation of new bleachers, walkways and lights at Silfen Field; and renovation of locker rooms and the Hall of Fame center.
Improvements to athletics facilities were just one part of a larger college improvement plan carried out during Higdon’s presidency. Under Higdon’s leadership, the College completed a $211 million fundraising campaign, the largest in its history; invested $85 million in campus renewal; constructed a new science center; expanded residential education programs; further internationalized the curriculum; increased financial aid; set new records for faculty and student diversity; and celebrated its centennial.
The Student Government Association initiated its own acknowledgement of Higdon’s leadership by passing a resolution that designated Monday, Oct. 28, as “President Higdon Day” on campus. A student-organized tribute event in Palmer Auditorium included songs, speeches, gifts, video and the unveiling of the “Higdon cookie,” a sugar cookie decorated with Higdon’s photograph.
Higdon will retire on Dec. 31 after more than seven years as president. On Jan. 1, 2014, Katherine Bergeron, currently dean of the college at Brown University, will become Connecticut College’s 11th president.