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‘She Will Do Really Great Things’

News of Note

Students, faculty and staff embrace Sarah Willie-LeBreton, Smith’s 12th president.


Published September 16, 2022

At the reception following President-elect Sarah Willie-LeBreton's first address to the Smith community, current students expressed their joy at the news of her appointment.

There was a sense of jubilation in the air on September 15 when the crowd that had gathered to meet Smith’s newly appointed 12th president for the first time spilled out of John M. Greene Hall and onto Chapin lawn. There, under a bluebird sky, hundreds of students, faculty and staff attended a lunchtime reception and shared their enthusiastic initial impressions of Sarah Willie-LeBreton.

“I am ecstatic that the president is a Black woman,” said Madina Tall ’26, a first-year student from Virginia. “I think it gives people a new impression of the school, something more inclusive and welcoming to all kinds of students.” Augustina Alapa ’26, a fellow first-year from Maryland, nodded in agreement. The fact that Willie-LeBreton is a woman of color, Alapa said, “offers a new and fresh perspective.”

Ada Comstock Scholars were among the groups name-checked by Willie-LeBreton in her introductory address to the Smith community. This did not go unnoticed by the Adas in the audience, including Emily (Emy) Collins AC. “I like that she acknowledged Adas, because that doesn’t happen a lot, and I think that says a lot,” Collins said. “She’s a beautiful speaker. She seems brilliant. She seems really excited to be here.” Another Ada, Dori Mondon AC, added, “I really loved her smile and the warm energy that she exudes. She holds a room. I’m thrilled.”

Sirohi Kumar ’26, a first-year student from Maine, was impressed with the transparency of the search process leading up to Willie-LeBreton’s appointment. “I appreciate the process and the factors behind deciding the president,” Kumar said. “I appreciate that Smith is very open about what it’s looking for and the fact that it’s a community-driven decision.”

Seniors attending the reception, including American studies major Julia Bernhart ’23, said Willie-LeBreton’s priorities are right on target. “From what she was saying about equity and inclusion, I think she will do some really great things,” Bernhart said. “The community part of Smith is really important, and I think already she’s grasped that really well.”

Willie-LeBreton, who will begin her tenure on July 1, 2023, made a point of meeting many of the students hanging out on Chapin lawn, including a cluster of backpack-wearing juniors. “She approached us instead of us approaching her, so I thought that was very nice,” said philosophy major Molly Gingras ’24. “She was very personable.” Jamie Rambin ’24, a psychology major, agreed—and then some. “She’s very impressive, not only as a scholar but as a human,” Rambin said. “I think Smith is in really great hands, and she’s going to continue President McCartney’s great work. I think she instills a lot of confidence in what’s to come.”

Photograph by Shana Sureck