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Margaret McKenna Chosen as Suffolk’s New President

Margaret McKenna, former president of Lesley University, has been selected as the 10th president of Suffolk University. 

 Suffolk University Board Chair Andrew C. Meyer, Jr. said he believes McKenna is a great pick for the university. “Her experience, innovative ideas and bold approach to addressing the challenges facing all of higher education make her the ideal leader for our University,” he said.

McKenna, the first woman to lead Suffolk University, said she has many goals and aspirations for Suffolk and is happy to make them happen.

“I have long been interested in Suffolk because its mission from the beginning has been access, and it continues to provide an education that is student centered and individually tailored,” said McKenna, “Moreover, there are very few urban universities in this country like Suffolk, with applied liberal arts, a business school and a law school. Suffolk is the model of a small urban university that uses the city as its classroom. And while Suffolk takes from the city, it gives more than it takes in terms of public policy, research and participation.” 

McKenna earned a BA from Emmanuel College and a JD from Southern Methodist University. McKenna has extensive experience in higher social justice, education, and philanthropy. She sees higher education as an instrument to social justice.

McKenna began her career as a civil rights attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice. She then became deputy counsel in the White House as well as undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education. From there she led the education transition team for President Clinton.

As for her work in higher education, McKenna’s 22 years as president of Lesley University helped the college grow from 2,000 students to more than 10,000, which changed the college to a university. She served as vice president of Radcliffe College and as a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University. With that, she also coached many new presidents of other institutions.

McKenna was also the president of the Walmart Foundation from 2007 to 2011, where she emphasized the need for knowledge of hunger relief, education, and the economic empowerment of women. Today, she is the vice chair of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Board and serves as a member of Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. She has served on five corporate boards and dozens of non-profit boards and is the recipient of 10 honorary degrees.

McKenna prepares her role at Suffolk as the new $62 million academic building is set to open this fall and as the university welcomes new deans in its colleges and law school.

Suffolk Trustee Mark E. Sullivan, who chaired the Presidential Search Committee, sees McKenna making great changes to the university. 

“Margaret McKenna has had her finger on the pulse of higher education for decades and is full of exciting ideas for leveraging Suffolk’s strengths to meet the needs of students who seek pragmatic learning that leads to a career path,” said Sullivan, “We are fortunate to have her on board and look forward to her leadership as the University continues its ascendancy.” 

McKenna will replace interim president Norman Smith, who has served since September 2014, when president James McCarthy resigned after 2½ years.

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