ED. Magazine

Joanne Creighton, M.A.T.’65, is too busy to ponder what she is right now; that will be a task for her sabbatical.

By Marin Jorgensen

joanne_creighton.jpgFor , ’65, retirement is not the end to her career in education, it is merely a sabbatical. Creighton, who will vacate her position as president of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., at the end of the 2009-10 academic year, is in no rush to decide on her post-Mount Holyoke life, however. “I will have time to reflect on what I will do next,” she says. “I need this ‘gap year’ before making any commitments for the future.”

Creighton’s career in administration happened unexpectedly. In fact, her reason for coming to the Ed School was simple: “I liked school and decided to keep going,” she says. And she kept on going, first, to the University of Michigan for her Ph.D. in English, then to Wayne State University, where she was working as an English professor when she was approached to take on the “temporary” position of associate dean. “That detour was to change the trajectory of my career,” she says. “From then on I was lured from one administrative assignment to the next,” including time as interim president at Wesleyan University. She came to Mount Holyoke in 1996.

She calls her choice to retire in 2010 a “natural transition,” as it is also in that year that Mount Holyoke completes a major fundraising effort, The Plan for 2010. During her tenure, she has shepherded two such plans designed to strengthen the school’s mission: “educating a diverse residential community of women at the highest level of academic excellence and fostering the alliance of liberal arts education with purposeful engagement in the world.” Among the plans’ many successes are a larger, stronger applicant pool, significant growth of the faculty, and dramatically improved financial resources.

Creighton does plan to continue her affiliations with both Mount Holyoke — at “a respectful distance,” she says — and Women’s Education Worldwide, the first-ever global alliance of women’s colleges that she cofounded in 2003. But for now, she, ever the student, is looking forward to her next challenge: “I haven’t had much leisure time in many years, so I’m pretty inexperienced at it,” she says. “But I do expect to learn more about how to enjoy leisure time after I step down as president.”

Photo: Ben Barnhart

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