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President Kathleen McCartney Will Step Down in June 2023

News of Note

Increasing College Access, Affordability To Remain Her Top Priority

Kathy McCartney headshot

Published February 25, 2022

In a message sent to the Smith College community today, President Kathleen McCartney announced that she will step down as president in June 2023, upon completion of 10 years of service. Appointed as Smith’s 11th president in 2013, she will focus the remainder of her term on the college’s strategic priorities. 

“I was humbled when called to serve as the president of Smith, and the work has been deeply rewarding,” she wrote. “For this reason, I find myself filled with gratitude to all of you in the Smith community, as I share my thoughts on all we have accomplished together.”

Beginning in 2015, McCartney led the creation of a strategic plan that resulted in a center for innovation and entrepreneurship, new academic programming, sustainability initiatives to address climate change, and increased student financial support. Equity and inclusion, a key component of the strategic plan, became a central focus of the college, leading to the enactment of Smith’s “Toward Racial Justice” plan. 

One of McCartney’s main priorities has been increasing college access and affordability. In service of this goal, the college expanded financial aid funding by 58% from 2013 to 2022, eliminated loans from financial aid packages, and offered new funding for first-year student start-up grants. Applications to Smith have increased by 63% during the first eight years of her presidency. 

Through the Women for the World Campaign, the Here for Every Voice initiative, and other fundraising efforts, McCartney raised $605 million to fund the goals of the strategic plan, including endowed chairs, increased scholarship aid, and the new Neilson Library, a forward-looking space for learning and connection, designed by Maya Lin and recognized for its architecture. In 2020, the college received the largest gift in its history – $50 million – in support of financial aid and career development.  

In a letter to the community, Alison Overseth, chair of the Board of Trustees, said that the board accepted McCartney’s decision to step down with reluctance. Overseth stated, “above all else, we wish to express immense gratitude to Kathy for all that she has given to and accomplished for Smith during her tenure as president.” Overseth continued, “Kathy has been an inspirational, aspirational and values-driven leader, with contributions that have infused nearly every aspect of the campus.”

For the remainder of her term, McCartney will continue to work with colleagues to advance Smith’s aspirations to become need-blind in college admission, to equalize the student experience, and to implement a new vision for career development. 

The Board will launch a search for Smith’s 12th president this spring. 

About Smith
Founded in 1871, Smith College opened in 1875 with 14 students. Today, it is one of the largest women’s liberal arts colleges in the United States, educating women of promise for lives of distinction and purpose. Smith enrolls 2,600 students from nearly every state and more than 50 other countries to cultivate leaders able to address the complex, urgent problems of today. As a global community of scholars, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, activists and humanitarians, Smith is pushing the world forward. More information at