Goldey-Beacom College names first female president

By Alex Vuocolo

Goldey-Beacom College on Monday announced that Dr. Colleen Perry Keith, Ph.D. will take over as the 14th president and first female leader of the 133-year-old institution in northern Delaware.

Keith has served as president of Pfeiffer University in North Carolina since 2015 and was president of Spartanburg Methodist College from 2009 to 2015.

Keith said that experience has taught her the importance of collaborating with faculty before imposing top-down plans.

“I’ve been a college president for 10 years now, and I know darn well that if I go in and say ‘here’s our agenda’ they’re not going to line up behind me,” Keith said. “We’ll have to work together.”

She noted that Goldey-Beacom is fundamentally a strong institution, and that her role will mostly involve “futureproofing” the school, “so it’s still here in another 130-plus years,” she said.

Goldey-Beacom appealed to Keith for personal and professional reasons. One factor was the college’s focus on students with a career track in mind.

“There is a real concern about having a major that’s going to help me get a job when I graduate,” Keith said. “Goldey-Beacom has a solid array of those kinds of majors.”

She added that the college’s emphasis on business and graduate programs was a plus as well. “That’s where the real growth is happening,” she said.

In addition, Delaware’s central location places her much closer to family members. Her son lives in Washington D.C., and her brother lives in York, Pa. Her 84 and 86-year-old parents also live in Syracuse, N.Y. — several hours closer to Delaware than North Carolina.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Keith to the greater College community,” said Mark Olazagasti, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “With more than 30 years’ experience in higher education, we believe she will be an extraordinary leader for the College. As we embark on a major campus expansion by 2020 with a new residence hall, this is perfect timing.”

Chicago-based search firm Witt/Kieffer conducted a nationwide search resulting in over 700 applicants.

Under Keith’s leadership, Pfeiffer increased enrollment, created the Office of Digital Transformation and Technology, launched two graduate health science programs and moved the University from NCAA Division II to Division III athletics. She also led the institution to substantial debt reduction.

Current President Gary L. Wirt will retire and turn over the reins on June 30, 2019. Wirt has served as a dean, vice president and president over his 45-year career at Goldey-Beacom.

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