2019-2020 Presidential Transition

On April 22, 2019, the Henry Luce Foundation announced Dr. Mariko Silver's appointment as the foundation's next President and CEO.

The board of trustees appointed Isabel Roche, Provost and Dean, as the Interim President of Bennington College, effective July 1, 2019.

On June 1, 2020 it was announced that Laura R. Walker has been selected to be the next President of Bennington College.

On August 1, 2020 President Laura Walker took office.

This page provides an overview of transition events, as well as a record of communications to the community regarding the search process.

Past Community Messages

Bennington College Appoints Laura R. Walker as 11th President

Laura R. Walker has been selected to be the next President of Bennington College. A pioneering media executive and leader in the arts, Walker has a long record of empowering prominent non-profit institutions to realize their creative potential and strengthen their impact.

Walker is widely recognized for leading the transformation of New York Public Radio (NYPR) into an independent media powerhouse -- effectively setting and supporting an entirely new paradigm for public media -- and for spearheading highly successful, innovative initiatives at Sesame Workshop and Carnegie Hall. Active in the academic realm, with a particular dedication to progressive education, she was a long-time member of the board of Saint Ann’s School and Education Development Center, and currently serves on The President’s Council at Wesleyan University and Yale School of Management’s Center for Customer Insights. Today she serves as a Becton Fellow and an Executive Fellow at the Yale School of Management.

Walker will succeed Mariko Silver, who stepped down in July 2019, and Interim President Dr. Isabel Roche, who has served for the past year in this role. Walker will formally start her term as President Elect on July 1 and become President on August 1, 2020. 

Read more >

Presidential Search Update

DATE: April 7, 2020
TO: The Bennington Community
FR: Alan Kornberg ’74, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee

The Presidential Search Committee met recently, and has decided at this time to continue with the search, although we will reconsider this decision as events unfold.

We have a number of very promising candidates that we have just interviewed remotely, and we are in the process of figuring out when and how meetings with finalists can take place. As you know this will be a crucial last step for which there is no substitute. Unfortunately, the timing for such campus visits remains difficult to predict as the world’s calendar adjusts to the pandemic.

We greatly appreciate your patience and support for the College and the search process as we modify our process and timeline to deal with the current reality we all must face.

I hope you and your families stay well. 

Presidential Search and COVID-19 Update

DATE: March 25, 2020
TO: Faculty, Staff, and Students
FR: Alan Kornberg ’74, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

The Presidential Search Committee met recently, and has decided at this time to continue with the search, although we will reconsider this decision as events unfold.

We have a number of very promising candidates that we will interview in the coming weeks, most likely remotely, and we are in the process of figuring out when on-campus meetings with finalists can take place. As you know this will be a crucial last step for which there is no substitute. Unfortunately, the timing for such campus visits remains difficult to predict as the world’s calendar adjusts to the pandemic.

We greatly appreciate your patience and support for the College and the search process as we modify our process and timeline to deal with the current reality we all must face.

I hope you and your families stay well.

Presidential Search and COVID-19

Sent: March 14, 2020

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

I hope you are staying safe and taking good care of yourselves during these stressful times. I write with the latest update on the presidential search.

As you know, we actively solicited feedback on campus this fall. This was followed by very lively participation by alumni and parents in focus groups this winter conducted in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

To date, over 100 names have come to us either by way of nomination, application, or outreach. The committee met last month to review progress and take a preliminary look at the most promising candidates. They are a very diverse group in every way, and our plan has been to continue to evaluate those and others as additional names come in. Nominations or self-nominations for the Presidency are still open, and may be sent to Phillips Oppenheim at Bennington@PhillipsOppenheim.com.

Our initial plan—which had been on schedule—was to conduct preliminary interviews of a small group of the most promising candidates in early April, and then bring the final group of candidates to campus later in the spring to engage with all of our constituencies. Now that the campus will be migrated to remote learning, we need to re-evaluate our plans and determine whether we can proceed on our original schedule. We will provide an update again soon after the search committee next meets on Friday, March 20.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Alan Kornberg ’74
Chair of the Presidential Search Committee

Job Description Posted

Updated December 18, 2019

The job description for the position of President of Bennington College is now available on the Phillips Oppenheim website. 

Feedback, Support, and Input

SENT: December 5, 2019
TO: Faculty, Staff, and Students
FR: Alan Kornberg '74

Thank you for your valuable input and guidance and input at our recent on campus sessions. Your observations have been an enormous help as we finalize the new President’s job description, which we anticipate will be posted within the next week.

I encourage you to send nominations or self-nominations for the Presidency to Phillips Oppenheim at Bennington@PhillipsOppenheim.com, the address which they have set up exclusively for our search. 

I also want to remind you to please submit any feedback you would like to share concerning the search to this google form. The form will remain active between now and the end of the year, and is an important resource for the search committee.

Over the winter we will be focused on finding and interviewing potential candidates, with an eye to advance these interviews through the spring. The Committee anticipates identifying a small group of finalists by April, at which point we plan to bring them to campus for final interviews and forums with all of you.

We will keep you abreast of any important updates. In the meantime, thanks again for your support and input.

Invitation for Your Input: To Alumni

Date: December 5, 2019

Dear Alumni, 

You are among the most important members of the Bennington College community, and we would like your input as we search for the next President of the College. To collect your thoughts and perspectives, we have created this google form, which is an important resource for the Search Committee. It is a convenient tool for you to provide feedback on questions such as:

  • What are some of the essential things that Bennington currently does that should be maintained in the years ahead? Are there things that should be changed?

  • What issues should be top priorities for Bennington's next President?

  • What attributes and characteristics do you feel are essential for the next President of Bennington?

  • Are there other matters you would like the Search Committee to consider as it conducts the search for Bennington's next President?

In addition, I invite you to send nominations or self-nominations for the Presidency to Phillips Oppenheim at Bennington@PhillipsOppenheim.com, the address which our search consultants have set up exclusively for our search. 

Over the winter we will be focused on finding and interviewing potential candidates, with an eye to advance these interviews through the spring. The Search Committee anticipates identifying a small group of finalists by April, at which point we plan to schedule final interviews.

We will keep you abreast of any important updates. In the meantime, thank you for your support and input.

Open Sessions for Faculty, Staff, and Students

A Message to Faculty, Staff, and Students from Alan Kornberg ’74, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee

Updated November 1, 2019

Jane Phillips Donaldson and Paul Spivey of Phillips Oppenheim will be holding open sessions with me on Thursday November 14 to collect your valuable input on the search for our next President. These conversations will provide us with crucial context as we conduct this nationwide search over the fall and winter, in anticipation of a final slate of candidates in the spring.

Below are a handful of prompts to help you reflect in advance and give you a sense of the anticipated conversation:

  • What are some of the essential things that Bennington currently does that should be maintained in the years ahead? Are there things that should be changed?

  • What issues should be top priorities for Bennington's next president?

  • What attributes and characteristics do you feel are essential for the next president of Bennington?

  • Are there other matters you would like the search committee to consider as it embarks on the search for Bennington's next president?

We are holding two sessions for each constituency, and the times of these sessions are listed below. 

We hope to see you there. We will also share a google form in mid-November for those who are not able to attend, or would prefer to submit their thoughts online. We'll use that feedback form for alumni and other constituencies as well.

Search Firm Announced

A Message from Alan Kornberg '74, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee 

Updated September 13, 2019

I am pleased to provide you with an update on our search that is now underway for a new president. After interviews with an impressive slate of search firms, our committee has retained Phillips Oppenheim, a leading firm that works exclusively with not-for-profit and cultural institutions. Jane Phillips Donaldson and Paul Spivey are our principal contacts at Phillips Oppenheim. As some of you may know, Jane led the 2013 search for Mariko Silver and knows the College particularly well. She also served as a trustee from 2006 to 2010.

One of the immediate priorities of the committee is to seek guidance and input from the many constituencies who have a stake in Bennington’s future. Members of the search committee and Phillips Oppenheim will be on campus this fall, and we will provide specific details in the near future. We will also soon share a google survey form to invite you to share your thoughts about the College, including its unique position within the current landscape of higher education, what Bennington’s priorities should be for the future, and the qualities a new president should possess.

The feedback collected this fall both in person and online will help shape the position description for the new president and inform our thinking as we move into the recruitment and preliminary assessment phase of the search process. The search committee hopes to be in a position to consider a short list of vetted candidates by the first quarter of 2020, with a final decision to be made in the spring.

We recognize that many in the Bennington community have a keen interest in the presidential search and in the College’s future. Over the next few months we will provide updates via email and on the Bennington College website, doing our best to balance the goal of transparency with the need for confidentiality.

Thank you for your interest and support as we embark on this important process.

Composition of the Presidential Search Committee

On June 6, 2019, Alan Kornberg '74, Chair of the Board of Trustees, announced the appointment of the Presidential Search Committee, comprised of Bennington College trustees, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the College.

Alan Kornberg '74 will serve as the Chair of the Search Committee, the members of which are as follows:

  • Priscilla Alexander ’58, Trustee
  • Tracy Katsky Boomer ’91, Trustee
  • Deborah Borda ’71
  • Suzanne Brundage ’08, Trustee
  • Barbara Ushkow Deane ’51, Trustee
  • Nare Filiposyan ’17
  • Michael Hecht, Trustee
  • Kent Hikida ’85, NYC Alumni Cooperative Co-chair
  • Alan Kornberg ’74, Trustee; Chair of the Presidential Search Committee
  • Angel Kwasniak, Staff
  • Brian Michael Murphy, Faculty
  • Kerry Ryer-Parke '90, Faculty
  • Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan '91, Trustee
  • Kim Scott, Trustee
  • Jim Simon ’97, Trustee
  • Nick Stephens ’77, Trustee
  • Ray Stevens ’15, Staff

Provost and Dean's Office Staffing Changes

Provost and Dean Isabel Roche announced staffing changes to the Provost and Dean's office during the presidential transition, beginning July 1, 2019.

  • John Bullock, Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, will take on the role of Acting Provost.
  • Oceana Wilson, Dean of the Library, will take on the role of Acting Dean of the College.
  • Noah Coburn will take on the newly created role of Associate Dean for Curriculum and Pedagogy.

Search Committee Request for Nominations

On May 9, 2019, Bennington College staff and faculty were invited to submit nominations for staff and faculty appointments to the presidential search committee. The search committee will be comprised of staff, faculty, alumni, trustees, and other friends of the College.

Dr. Silver Appointed President and CEO of Henry Luce Foundation

On April 22, 2019, the Henry Luce Foundation announced Dr. Mariko Silver's appointment as the foundation's next President and CEO. Provost and Dean Isabel Roche was appointed Interim President following Silver's departure on July 1, 2019.