History of the Office of the President of Skidmore
the help of Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler,
Mrs. Scribner recruited Charles Henry
Keyes, a well-known educator from
Teachers College, as Skidmore’s first president. His vision
and energy proved as effective as Mrs. Scribner had hoped, giving
the school the momentum it needed. In 1922 Dr. Keyes fulfilled his
avowed ambition of having the school chartered as Skidmore College,
a four-year degree-granting institution.
In addition to developing a liberal arts curriculum that became
the basis for Skidmore’s present curriculum, Dr. Keyes pioneered
the formation of a baccalaureate nursing program and began the more
active shaping of a campus. By the time of his death in 1925, Dr.
Keyes had played a key role in acquiring several of the Victorian
mansions overlooking Congress Park, which began to give the college
a more precise physical identity.
T. Moore, Skidmore’s second president, arrived in 1925
from the chairmanship of the Dartmouth College psychology department,
ready to take on the challenge of developing the young college both
academically and physically. His thirty-two-year presidency brought
Skidmore College to a position of leadership in women’s education.
Under his tenure, academic programs were developed and refined,
and an excellent faculty recruited. A library, infirmary, residence
halls, and dining halls were built, and further property acquisitions
allowed for enrollment growth, as old homes became student dormitories,
and carriage houses became classrooms, studios, and laboratories.
Even more significant than his administrative and financial abilities
was his influence on a generation of Skidmore students whom he inspired
to intellectual and creative achieve-ment. The young college had
grown to an enrollment of more than 1,100 by his retirement in 1957.
H. Wilson, formerly of Colorado Women’s College, became
Skidmore’s third president that year, bringing with him buoyant
enthusiasm, boundless energy, and an informal style that further
personalized the Skidmore community. He concentrated on strengthening
the faculty and academic programs, initiated inroads in the creation
of interdepartmental offerings, and encouraged more and more students
to enter graduate school.
Under Dr. Wilson, Skidmore’s growth strained its campus at
the seams. Enrollment had risen to 1,300, and many of the turn-of-the-century
buildings were growing obsolete, requiring increased maintenance
and renovation. The adequacy of the physical plant also was threatened
by the loss of fifty acres of athletic fields to a new superhighway
as Interstate 87 worked its way northward.
It was at this critical time in Skidmore’s history that a
generous gift brought about a courageous decision by the Skidmore
College Board of Trustees. Board member J. Erik Jonsson and his
wife, Margaret, offered an alternative to the difficulties of maintaining
and restoring the campus. The Jonssons donated sufficient funds
to purchase a 650-acre tract on the outskirts of the city —
a tract Mrs. Scribner had sought fifty years earlier — and
challenged the board to begin the construction of a completely new
campus for Skidmore. In a historic move many now believe was the
only hope for the college’s continued health and survival,
the board voted October 28, 1961, to purchase the land and begin
the construction of what is now known as the Jonsson Campus.
the time his tenure was cut short by his sudden death in 1964, Dr.
Wilson saw construction begin on the Lucy Scribner Library and on
the first residential and dining complex.
Joseph C. Palamountain Jr., Skidmore’s
fourth president, took office in 1965. A political scientist with
a doctorate from Harvard, Dr. Palamountain came to Skidmore from
Wesleyan University, where he was provost. He guided Skidmore through
a period of dynamic growth and change. Under his leadership, the
development of the college’s new physical plant progressed
rapidly. Currently, the Jonsson Campus has a total of forty-nine
Dr. Palamountain’s twenty-two-year presidency was characterized
by impressive growth in the academic and financial areas of the
college. Skidmore experienced the doubling of the student body and
major increases in applications, the near doubling of the faculty,
the transition from a women’s college to a coeducational institution,
and the creation of the first external degree program in New York
State (University Without Walls). During his presidency there were
two innovative curriculum changes and the chartering of a Phi Beta
Kappa chapter. The financial health of Skidmore was bolstered by
growth in the endowment and in the college’s net worth, due
in part to the launching of the $25-million Celebration Campaign
H. Porter, the college’s fifth president, came to Skidmore
in 1987 from Carleton College, where he taught classics and music.
Early in his presidency, Dr. Porter established the Commission on
the ’90s to help chart Skidmore’s course to the twenty-first
century. The commission recommended new institutional priorities,
with an emphasis on enhancing the academic tone on campus, ensuring
long-term financial stability, and promoting greater diversity within
the campus community and curriculum.
During the Porter presidency, Skidmore launched an Honors Forum
and a program of scholarships in science and mathematics. The campus
landscape changed dramatically as Skidmore renovated and expanded
Scribner Library, constructed an outdoor athletic complex, upgraded
computer and telecommunications capabilities, built an addition
to the Sports and Recreation Center, and expanded Dana Science Center.
In addition, Dr. Porter helped lead the largest fund-raising effort
in Skidmore’s history, the Skidmore Journey: A Campaign for
Our Second Century, launched in 1993. The five-year campaign raised
$86.5 million, enabling the college to substantially increase its
endowment and providing funds for construction of the Tang Teaching
Museum and Art Gallery.
In 1999, Jamienne S. Studley became Skidmore’s sixth president and the
first woman to hold that office. A graduate of Barnard College and
Harvard Law School, she was previously associate dean of Yale Law School
and general counsel of the U.S. Department of Education. President
Studley led a strategic planning process that established the college’s
direction for the coming decade. The plan outlined three major goals:
enhancing academic quality and faculty-student interaction; attracting
and challenging an increasingly talented, motivated, and diverse student
body; and strengthening the sense of community and citizenship across
During the Studley presidency, the college adopted a new core curriculum
and expanded opportunities for international study. President Studley
shepherded the renovation and expansion of Case Campus Center, the
establishment of the Intercultural Center, and the construction of the
Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum.
There has been a continuity of purpose underlying the change and
growth at Skidmore. The college has consistently espoused the goal
of liberal education as the best means of preparing for a life of
continuing personal growth and of responsible and significant service
to the community. Skidmore’s programs, both those in the traditional
liberal arts and those of a professional nature, represent liberal
education in their common pursuit of academic excellence and their
concern with sensibilities, values, and qualities that distinguish