Dickinson College picks 1st female leader

Nancy A. Roseman had been a Williams College dean.
Nancy A. Roseman had been a Williams College dean.

Nancy A. Roseman will replace William G. Durden, who is retiring after 14 years.

Posted: October 30, 2012

Dickinson College has selected its first female president in its 229-year history.

Nancy A. Roseman, former dean at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., will take over at the 2,400-student liberal arts college on July 1, replacing William G. Durden, who will retire after 14 years at the helm, the college announced on Sunday evening.

Roseman was selected by the school's board of trustees on Saturday afternoon to be the college's 28th president and will be on campus Thursday to meet with students and staff, said Dickinson spokeswoman Christine Dugan.

Roseman's selection followed an eight-month international search that turned up more than 200 candidates, the college said.

"I'm just so excited," Roseman, 53, a native of New Brunswick, N.J., said in a telephone interview. "There was such passion around the table. They have such passion. This is really a great school, and they wanted to have someone who will make it greater."

Jennifer Ward Reynolds, chair of the trustees board, cited Roseman's experience at Williams College - also a small liberal arts school - where she served as dean for seven years and then as assistant to the president for special projects. She worked on everything from student life to fund-raising, to building projects and strategic planning. She also dealt with campus safety, disciplinary issues and crisis management.

She most recently was the director of Williams' study-abroad program at Oxford University in England.

Roseman has spent most of her career at Williams, where she joined the faculty as a biology professor in 1991.

"Dr. Roseman was closely involved with management of the college, development of the budget, policy decisions and implementation of institutional initiatives, so she brings to Dickinson that strong academic and administrative experience and an unwavering commitment to the liberal arts," Reynolds said in a prepared statement. "I'm confident about her abilities to build on the achievements of the past 14 years . . . "

At Williams, the dean typically is appointed by the president to serve three to five years and then returns to the classroom. Roseman served a longer stint, then moved on to two other administrative positions.

"It was the most rewarding thing I've ever done," she said of her work as dean, relishing the opportunity to make a college better on a larger scale and take on the job of a president.

Roseman received her bachelor of arts degree from Smith College in 1980 and her doctorate in microbiology in 1987 from Oregon State University, where she later did her postdoctoral work before joining Williams' faculty.

She intends to spend a lot of time listening and learning about Dickinson.

"I think it's really important to absorb its ethos, its traditions, its values," she said. "In order for me to be effective, I have to understand all the pieces."

She looks forward to moving to the Carlisle-based campus, along with her spouse, Lori K. van Handel, their dog, Archer, and two cats, Cholly and Lola.

"We just felt so comfortable and at home there. We can't wait to get there," she said.

Contact Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or ssnyder@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @ssnyderinq

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