Connecticut College’s Eleventh President

President Emerita Katherine Bergeron served as Conn’s 11th president from January 2014 through June 2023, leading the College successfully through a global pandemic and overseeing one of the most significant periods of transformation in the College’s history. Through promoting a distinctive new approach to the liberal arts and a philosophy of full participation, the College raised the bar for excellence, burnishing its national and international reputation and breaking records in academic honors, athletics, applications, enrollment, and fundraising. 

Bergeron was an early champion of Connections, Conn’s signature core curriculum, bringing a new sense of vigor and purpose to the liberal arts to prepare students for leadership in an interconnected world. The unique integrative vision of Connections served as a foundation for the College’s ambitious strategic plan, Building on Strength, created in 2016 to elevate Conn’s academic distinction, deepen the student experience, and support a more just and sustainable community. The strategy would lead to significant advances in the College’s academic, residential, equity, sustainability, and financial goals.

Under her leadership, Connecticut College saw applications for admission double, from 5000 in 2014 to nearly 10,000 in 2023, and the College welcomed the two largest, most talented, and most diverse incoming classes in its history. An ambitious fundraising campaign, completed a year ahead of schedule, inspired record-breaking generosity with the largest single gifts ever recorded in support of financial aid, career education, teaching, research, academic support, athletics, the arts, and campus infrastructure.

During her tenure, $100 million in capital investments helped to transform the campus landscape. Major capital projects completed during this period included the new Zachs Hillel House; the renovation of the Charles E. Shain Library; the creation of the Walter Commons for Global Study and Engagement as well as the Hale Center for Career Development; the revitalization of the College’s historic art deco theater into the Nancy Athey ’72 and Preston Athey Center for Performance and Research at Palmer Auditorium; the renewal of the College property along the Thames River into the beautiful Kohn Waterfront and Archibald Way; the completion of the Stark Center of the Moving Image; and the creation of the College’s first downtown residence hall.

Equity, inclusion, and full participation were central to Bergeron’s strategic vision, leading to the creation of the first Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion; the expansion of the Posse program; and the launch of the Agnes Gund ‘60 Dialogue Project. More than $40 million in new financial aid resources and a $10 million gift to expand the Academic Resource Center were also instrumental in supporting an environment where all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential and to flourish.

With more than $7 million in new institutional grant funding to enhance teaching, research, and scholarship, the faculty flourished as well, and the College approved new majors and minors in Africana Studies, Jewish Studies, Global Islamic Studies, Educational Studies, Environmental Engineering Studies, Geology, Statistics and Data Science, Finance, and Quantitative Economics and Econometrics. Nearly 200 new courses were added to the catalog in support of Connections, along with a new College tradition, the annual All-College Symposium. Enhanced ties to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy further expanded academic offerings, and the College launched its first online summer program.

During this period, Connecticut College students and faculty were honored with ever more prestigious fellowships. The College also created the first ever staff recognition awards program. International student awards included 50 Fulbright Fellows, four Watson Fellows, two Beinecke scholars, and the first Marshall Scholar in Conn’s history. The strengthening of varsity athletics led to the College’s first Division III national championship in 2021. And the College’s enhanced commitment to sustainability, another goal of the strategic plan, was rewarded that same year with the first Gold star rating awarded by the American Association of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Bergeron is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wesleyan University who earned master’s and doctoral degrees in music history from Cornell University and wrote two prize-winning books on French music and culture. Before Conn, she held faculty positions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Tufts University, and earned tenure at the University of California at Berkeley, where she won the Award for Outstanding Woman Assistant Professor; received significant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies; and served on the editorial board of Representations. After Berkeley, as a full professor at Brown University, she was named dean of the college, where she oversaw the first major review of the Brown curriculum in 40 years, and developed new initiatives in academic advising, career education, science education, and international education. Beyond campus, Bergeron supported the higher education community in a variety of roles, serving as chair of the Board of the Council of Independent Colleges; as a member of Board of Directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities; as a Board member of the American Academic Leadership Institute; as a commissioner of the New England Commission on Higher Education; and as a member of the Division III Presidents Council of the NCAA. Closer to home, she served on the Board of Directors of the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra and on the Board of the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut. 

Bergeron remained active in teaching and scholarship throughout her presidency, offering guest lectures for colleagues in the departments of philosophy, music, and history, and continuing to publish in her scholarly discipline and in the higher education press.  With her husband, composer and media artist Butch Rovan, she also taught a popular course on songwriting that yielded three albums of original songs by Connecticut College students. Bergeron and Rovan performed frequently with student bands on campus and even created some new song traditions, including a new Victory Song and a new R & B version of the Connecticut College alma mater, “Alma Mater By the Sea.”