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History of the Presidency

Lara Tiedens: 2016-

Lara Tiedens began her tenure as president of Scripps College on August 1, 2016, assuming the title of the W.M. Keck Presidential Chair. President Tiedens has implemented initiatives to promote innovative pedagogy, ensure a holistic student experience, cultivate a diverse and inclusive community, and forge strategic partnerships to amplify Scripps’ impact and influence on the advancement of women in society. She has led the efforts to develop a new strategic plan to strengthen Scripps’ position as a national leader in liberal arts and women’s education and to reinforce a commitment to the College’s mission, values, and legacy while shaping its future. Initiatives of utmost importance to President Tiedens include: leveraging Scripps’ rich tradition in the humanities to solve complex economic, social, and political challenges; building the pipeline of women leaders in fields in which they are underrepresented, such as science and technology; and cultivating a culture of equity and inclusion on campus. She has increased the financial aid budget to expand support for underrepresented students and implemented the Presidential Scholarship Initiative to raise endowed support for scholarships. She has also led conversations to strengthen the Scripps community through curiosity, compassion, and dialogue.

Amy Marcus-Newhall: Interim President 2015-2016

The Board of Trustees appointed Amy Marcus-Newhall, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, as interim president effective mid-October. Marcus-Newhall worked closely with President Lori Bettison-Varga to manage the transition until her departure.

Lori Bettison-Varga: 2009-2015

Lori Bettison-Varga became Scripps College’s eighth president July 1, 2009. During her six-year tenure, President Bettison-Varga advanced Scripps College’s reputation as a superior liberal arts college and a leader in women’s education, resulting in a significant increase in admission applications.
Lori-Varga

President Bettison-Varga launched the College’s most ambitious fundraising campaign to date, which enabled new student scholarships, new facilities including the College’s tenth residence hall, and the Laspa Center for Leadership. In addition, the endowment per student by grew by more than 15 percent during her tenure. President Bettison-Varga’s accomplishments include leading development of a comprehensive sustainability program, establishing campus-wide inclusion and diversity initiatives, and strengthening engagement with all Scripps constituencies through accessible, responsive, and results-oriented leadership.

As a national advocate for higher education, Bettison-Varga served on the boards of the Annapolis Group, Women’s College Coalition, National Merit Scholarship Corporation, the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, National Institute for Technology and Education, the Wye Advisory Council, and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and she was a member of the International Women’s Forum.

Prior to coming to Scripps College, Bettison-Varga was provost and dean of the faculty at Whitman College, from 2007 to 2009. Previously, she served as a professor in the Department of Geology and associate dean for research and grants at the College of Wooster, from 2002-2007. She earned a PhD and MS in geology from the University of California, Davis, and a BA in geology, with honors, from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Frederick “Fritz” Weis: 2007-2009

Frederick M. “Fritz” Weis became interim president of Scripps College effective July 1, 2007, as a national search was underway for its next president. Shortly after the search concluded in March 2009, the Board of Trustees voted to elevate his position to full president, making him the seventh president in the history of Scripps College.

In announcing the appointment, Board of Trustees chair Roxanne Wilson noted, “Fritz brings to Scripps a lifetime of experience and commitment to higher education and The Claremont Colleges. His professional background in financial management, college administration and teaching, combined with outstanding personal qualities, make him the ideal steward of the Scripps presidency.”

Weis’ appointment continued a 26-year career in administrative and faculty positions at The Claremont Colleges. He served as director of financial and business affairs and treasurer of Scripps College for two years in the early 1980s, developing and managing the annual budget and major residential hall renovation program; in addition, he taught the College’s first accounting class. He has also lectured at Pomona College and Claremont Graduate University, was vice president and treasurer of Claremont McKenna College, and was executive practitioner in residence at Claremont McKenna, teaching undergraduate courses in accounting and finance.

He has three degrees from Claremont: an MBA in management and finance and an MA in higher education from Claremont Graduate School, and a BA in business economics from Claremont McKenna College. Weis is quick to boast that every member of his immediate family has graduated from one of The Claremont Colleges; his wife, Mary Fraser Weis, is a Scripps alumna.

“The importance of a liberal arts education is paramount to us,” he said. “Scripps women espouse the importance of the interdisciplinary approach to the curriculum and the role of the Core in their lives.”

Nancy Bekavac: 1990-2007

Nancy Bekavac became the sixth president of Scripps College on July 1, 1990, the first woman president for Scripps College and the first woman president of any school in the Claremont Consortium.

Prior to her appointment, Bekavac served as counselor to the president of Dartmouth College and as executive director of the Thomas J. Watson Foundation. These positions, along with an academic history at both Swarthmore College and Yale University, faculty positions at Occidental College, UCLA Law School, and Claremont McKenna College, and more than a decade of practicing law, made her well suited to serve as Scripps’ president.

Bekavac helped revitalize Scripps’ interdisciplinary Core Curriculum in the Humanities, increased campus diversity, added faculty positions to meet a growing student body, and presided over the Campaign for the Scripps Woman, the most successful capital campaign in the College’s 81-year history, which was supported by 85 percent of alumnae.

During her tenure, Bekavac oversaw the construction and renovation of several important buildings on campus, including the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Commons and Scripps Performing Arts Center.

Most important, during her presidency, the student body grew from 600 to 850. “Nancy hired remarkable teachers and scholars, while increasing the academic qualifications of entering students,” said Roxanne Wilson, chair of the Scripps College Board of Trustees, after Bekavac’s resignation in 2007. “Today, Scripps is positioned at the forefront of women’s and liberal arts education in America.”

In President Bekavac’s farewell address to the Scripps community she said: “I am and will always be profoundly grateful to have had the opportunity to see this small college grow into the remarkable, dynamic institution it is today and play a part in its development. I leave with full confidence in the direction of the College and, above all, in the Scripps women of today and of the future. I will miss our daily contacts greatly, and I will always cheer you on.”

E. Howard Brooks: 1989-1990

E. Howard Brooks had a long and storied history with the Claremont Consortium before becoming president of Scripps College in 1989. He began as provost of The Claremont Colleges in 1971 after more than two decades of service to Stanford University, where he worked in a variety of senior administrative positions and as consultant to several foundations.

President Brooks transitioned to vice president of planning and development for Claremont McKenna College before becoming provost of Scripps College in 1987. He was appointed acting president in July 1989 by the Board of Trustees to serve until his requested retirement on June 30, 1990.

During his presidency, President Brooks worked to diversify the Scripps College syllabus and develop a truly interdisciplinary liberal arts model. In a spring 1990 Scripps Bulletin interview, Brooks said, “I believe very much in a general education core.” He believed that the College could not continue to portray itself solely as a women’s college that emphasized the humanities and the arts. “In the future, Scripps will perhaps be described as a residential liberal arts college for women with a strong central core in the humanities and arts,” he said.

President Brooks also worked to improve faculty involvement in key College decisions. He restructured and redefined the positions of dean of faculty and dean of students and reorganized the budget committee so that the faculty had a say in budget distribution. He also advocated for an improved balance in cross-registration across the Claremont Consortium. In all, he said, “we’ve made Scripps a feistier institution.”

Brooks passed away in his home in San Luis Obispo in September 2007 at age 86. He is survived by his wife, Courtaney; two daughters, Robin Pollock and Merilee Runyan; and three grandchildren.

John H. Chandler: 1976-1989

Throughout John H. Chandler’s career as fourth president of Scripps College, one thing remained the same: his humaneness.

“His experience has made him a rare combination of teacher, scholar, and executive,” wrote former Scripps College president Mark Curtis of his successor in 1976. Kenneth Rhodes, chairman of the Board of Trustees at the time, agreed: “He is a person of warmth and sensitivity and one who, in my opinion, will provide the College with a strong and effective leadership.”

Mali Davidson, former editor of the Scripps College Bulletin, said in 1989 that Chandler’s trademark warmth and sensitivity made him a true “people’s president.”

Chandler took office in 1976, a time when both higher education and Scripps College faced a tenuous future; declining enrollment, budget deficits, deteriorating infrastructure, and disenfranchised alumnae had made the College campus less of a community than the one we know today. Chandler understood that his task was to restore Scripps College to health, both financially and institutionally.

A series of initiatives brought about this radical transformation by the end of Chandler’s term. Conservative fiscal policy brought the College out of debt and revitalized campus grounds, while a renewed emphasis on alumnae engagement led to greater insight into institutional planning and beautification of the residence halls.

“Alumnae participation,” he said, “brought about a new awareness, a rebirth of a sense of loyalty, and a wish to support the College.”

Chandler also headed up the successful “Campaign for Scripps College,” a fundraising effort that raised more than $40 million, increasing endowments for financial aid and enabling the College to attract and retain faculty of the highest quality.

Previously the president of Salem College and Academy, a women’s institution in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Chandler focused much of his career on women’s education and the humanities. Born in San Francisco, he received his bachelor’s in English from UCLA and earned a PhD in religion and literature from the University of Chicago. He is also an ordained minister in the Episcopal Church.

Of his resignation: “I will read literature and history and visit the great art collections and the theater. I’m anxious, of course, at what might lie beyond but confident that something wonderful will happen, something new, something interesting.”

Mark Curtis: 1964-1976

When Mark Curtis announced his resignation as third president of Scripps College in the spring of 1975, few could say they’d changed the landscape of the college — both aesthetically and academically — more than he had.

President Curtis oversaw an era of growth and construction at Scripps College with the building of Mary Patterson Routt and Bessie Bartlett Frankel and Cecil Frankel Halls, the addition of Bette Cree Edwards Humanities Building, and the expansion of Ella Strong Denison Library. And that was just the architecture; the student body more than doubled in size under his tenure thanks to improved financial aid packages and bolstered faculty salaries.

“We have reached the point where the College has the innate strength to sustain the strains of a period of transition and even perhaps, to gain a new sense of purpose from the experience,” he wrote in his letter of resignation. “The accomplishments of the last ten and one-half years have resulted from genuine shared efforts.”

With any period of successful expansion comes trials; President Curtis often spoke of the “difficult, tense times” that coincided with the social turmoil of the mid-sixties and seventies, including confrontations with faculty and the Black Student Union. His presidency also involved leadership on the Claremont Consortium as provost.

Prior to Scripps College, President Curtis was a member of the history department faculty at Williams College and at UCLA, where he also served as associate dean for the graduate division. He earned a bachelors, masters, and doctorate from Yale University and was also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Folger Shakespeare Library Fellowship.

Curtis ultimately left Scripps College in 1976, but his legacy is visible any time one walks across campus. In later years, he confided that his successor should have been a woman, a forward-thinking suggestion he would live to see come to fruition before passing in the fall of 1994.

Frederick Hard: 1944-1964

“I believe the small, independent, privately-supported institution is the best way to get an education,” wrote Frederick Hard in 1955. As Scripps College’s second and longest-serving president, he had a unique opportunity to put his theory to the test.

A distinguished Shakespearean scholar, Hard was an Alabama native educated by some of the finest liberal arts colleges in the United States, including University of the South, the University of North Carolina, and Johns Hopkins University. He came to Scripps College after a successful tenure as faculty and Dean of Newcomb College, Tulane University’s women’s college.

President Hard came to Scripps at a critical point in Scripps College’s history; the school had lost its first leader in 1942, and the nation was in the middle of World War II: physically and intellectually resources were scarce. Upon taking the office of president, Hard re-affirmed the values inherent in a liberal arts education, saying it is “the best preparation which American women can receive … it will equip them to speak boldly against all that is wasteful, extravagant, and dangerous in our social order.”

During his tenure at Scripps College, Hard frequently put his knowledge of English and Shakespeare to work, writing numerous contributions to periodicals on literature of the Renaissance. An avid musician, he also played violin and taught music on occasion. A figurehead of the campus, his annual holiday cards became much-celebrated reminders of the Hard family and their ties to the larger Scripps College community.

“He looked upon the college as a living institution, accommodating many different people,” noted former history professor Edward White. “His prime concern was a sense of justice. He wanted the faculty and the student body at large to be treated with love, justice, and charity.”

After his retirement in 1964, Hard held the post of president emeritus of Scripps College and taught English at Adlai Stevenson College, University of California, Santa Cruz. It was a sad note for the College when John H. Chandler announced his passing in 1981.

“[He] brought the college the same Southern gentility he practiced in his own life,” added White. “Courtesy, gentlemanliness, and consideration.”

Mary Kimberly Shirk: Interim President 1942-1944

With American involvement in World War II, the search for a new president of Scripps is temporarily halted and an interim female president is appointed: Mary Kimberly Shirk. Shirk, who was asked by the Board to “serve for a month or two,” remains in the position until the War concludes.

Ernest Jaqua: 1925-1942

Ernest J. Jaqua was chosen to lead Scripps College in 1925, a full year before its formal opening. After Ellen Browning Scripps gave $500,000 for the establishment of a college for women, Pomona President James Blaisdell recommended Jaqua, who was then Pomona’s Dean of Faculty.

Born in Iowa in 1882 and educated at Grinnell College, Jaqua rapidly rose to positions of importance after receiving MAs from Columbia and Union Theological Seminary and a PhD from Harvard. He was named President of Scripps College in 1926 and quickly set out to build a name for the new institution.

President Jaqua assembled a board of trustees half composed of prominent southern California women, a circumstance unique in college governance at the time. He oversaw the design and construction of the first buildings on campus and was extraordinarily successful at raising money for the College, particularly from women. According to accounts by trustees, alumnae, and former faculty, he was brilliant at attracting extremely talented professors. Always an advocate for the physical campus and a proponent of its beauty, Jaqua was honored years after his Presidency with the naming of the Jaqua Central Quadrangle and Terrace in 1974.

Jaqua served as President from 1926 to 1942, 16 years of rapid development for Scripps College. These early years were far from idyllic; following the Great Depression in the late twenties and early thirties, funding became scarce, and many students had to leave the College before graduation. Faculty salaries became not only stagnant, but were reduced.

The story of Jaqua’s relationship to the College the last few years of his tenure are fascinating and complex; his relationship with faculty and students reached a low point with the milestone May 1938 Letter a group of students wrote to trustees, administrators, and influential alumnae leaders. The letter detailed concerns students had about the stability of academic programs and faculty and perceived undue interference in student affairs.

Jaqua resigned from Scripps College in June 1942. He went on to serve in war work for the government and other positions in education. He and his wife retired to Claremont in 1963 where he died in 1974 at the age of 92.