Connecticut College Magazine · Fall 2013


Corrie Searls '14, an art history major from Minneapolis, at the site of her dream internship last summer, Christie's auction house at New York City's Rockefeller Plaza. Photo by Karsten Moran

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College picks its next president

Old Lyme Native Katherine Bergeron is a scholar of musicology and a senior administrator at Brown University

The 11th president of Connecticut College will be Katherine Bergeron, a scholar of music history who has been chief academic officer for undergraduate education at Brown University since 2006.

The College's Board of Trustees announced her selection in August. She is scheduled to take office Jan. 1, 2014, following the retirement of Leo I. Higdon, Jr., president since 2006.

“Katherine Bergeron is the right leader for this moment in our history,” said Pamela D. Zilly '75, chair of the Connecticut College Board of Trustees and chair of the Presidential Search Committee. “She has a tremendous ability to connect ideas and convert them into action. She is a champion of the tradition of education in the liberal arts and sciences, and, at the same time, an experienced and effective administrator with a record of successful innovation.”

As Brown's dean of the college, Bergeron is credited with leading a renewed focus on the undergraduate experience; strengthening academic and career advising; and implementing new programs in community service, science education and internationalization.

In 2007-08, she led the first comprehensive review of the Brown curriculum in 40 years; this work resulted in the creation of new learning goals, new standards for academic concentrations and new opportunities for student-faculty interaction. She also designed and implemented initiatives to recruit and support underrepresented students in the sciences, mathematics and technology.

“I commend the Connecticut College trustees for their wise selection,” said President Emerita of Brown University Ruth J. Simmons. “Katherine's depth and breadth of experience have prepared her well for the challenges of the college presidency. She is committed to excellence in education and research, has sound judgment and offers a collaborative approach to leadership that is highly effective.”

Bergeron was recruited to join Brown University as professor of music in 2004 after 11 years as a member of the music faculty at the University of California, Berkeley. She was named chair of the music department in 2005 and, a year later, appointed dean of the college. Earlier in her career, she taught at Tufts University and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Higdon last year announced his plan to retire in November 2013. Under his 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.

“Connecticut College has never been stronger than it is today,” Zilly said. “I look forward to working with Katherine Bergeron to build on our achievements as we move further into our second century.”

Bergeron is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wesleyan University with a Bachelor of Arts in music. She earned her master's and doctoral degrees in musicology at Cornell University.

Bergeron said she was attracted to Connecticut College's “forward-thinking tradition,” citing the college's establishment in 1911 to provide education for women who were excluded elsewhere, its successful transition to coeducation in 1969, and its creation in the 1990s of interdisciplinary academic centers. She also noted that Connecticut College has been a leader among liberal arts colleges in integrating theory with practice through its active service programs in the community and its four-year career development program that provides every student the opportunity for a college-funded internship.

“The notions of modern education and broad access to education are written in the DNA of Connecticut College,” she said. “This tradition is so powerful at the current moment, when all institutions of higher education are being asked to create new models for learning and to find new ways to expand access to education.”

At an informal reception in Shain Library the day after her selection was announced, she said she had received hundreds of emails from people at Brown telling her what a great place Connecticut College is —“as if I needed to be convinced!”

In the academic sphere, Bergeron's research focuses on French cultural history of the 19th and 20th centuries, with an emphasis on music and language. She is the author and editor of numerous scholarly articles and books, including two prize-winning monographs, “Decadent Enchantments” (University of California Press, 1998), about the revival of Gregorian chant, and “Voice Lessons” (Oxford University Press, 2010), a study of French language education, linguistic science and the emergence of the vocal art known as la mélodie française.

Throughout her career, Bergeron's teaching and research have been enlivened by performance. A singer of eclectic tastes, she has performed Gregorian chant, the blues, the court music of central Java, contemporary pop music, experimental music, and, most recently, French art song.

“She has proven leadership and the ability to solve complex problems within a system based on collaboration and shared governance,” said Connecticut College Chemistry Professor Stanton Ching, a member of the Presidential Search Committee. “We were impressed with her ability not only to develop good ideas but also to cultivate creativity in others and work with them to put their ideas into action.”

In an editorial, The (New London) Day, wrote: “In naming Katherine Bergeron as its 11th president, Connecticut College selected a woman with an impressive academic background, a clear commitment to liberal arts education, and a local girl to boot. Not bad.”

Bergeron is a native of nearby Old Lyme, Conn., and has deep roots in eastern Connecticut and longtime ties to Connecticut College. She graduated from Lyme-Old Lyme High School in 1976 and as a sophomore began receiving music instruction from Patricia Harper, an adjunct professor of music at Connecticut College since 1975.

Bergeron is married to Joseph Butch Rovan, professor of music and chair of the music department at Brown. The couple performed Rovan's experimental work, “vis-à-vis,” at the 2003 biennial symposium of the Ammerman Center for Arts & Technology, one of Connecticut College's five interdisciplinary academic centers. Rovan was an Ammerman Center visiting artist in 2007.

Watch a video of Katherine Bergeron speaking on campus.

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