• Laura Skandera Trombley
    Carlos Barron

On October 15, Southwestern University will celebrate the inauguration of Dr. Laura Skandera Trombley as the university’s 16th president, and first woman president in the institution’s history. 

The installation ceremony will occur at 2 p.m. on Friday, October 15 on the Roy H. Cullen Academic Mall. Following the ceremony, a reception will be held at Floyd and Anetta Jones Plaza at 3:30 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., Southwestern will host the 2021 Roy and Margaret Shilling Lecture, featuring Dr. Ruth J. Simmons, who is the president of Prairie View A&M University and was the first African-American woman selected to head a major university when she became president of Smith College in 1995. That evening at 7 p.m., members of the President’s Council and the 1840 Society will be invited to the President’s Appreciation Celebration at Finch Plaza. 

Prior to assuming the presidency of Southwestern University, Trombley was the longest serving president of Pitzer College, a member of the Claremont Consortium, and is president emerita of the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens and the University of Bridgeport. She is also emerita chair of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, appointed to the position by President Barack Obama in 2015. Previously, she served as vice president for academic affairs at Coe College, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Trombley is the author of five books and is a distinguished Mark Twain scholar. In May 2018, the Huntington Library presented her with the Professor of American Literature Award and in August 2017, the Mark Twain Circle of America awarded her the Louis J. Budd Award for excellence in scholarly achievement. Trombley received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Southern California, where she was a Virginia Barbara Middleton Scholar and a recipient of the Lester and Irene Finkelstein Fellowship for Outstanding Humanities Student. She received her bachelor’s degree and a master of arts from Pepperdine University, where she graduated summa cum laude.

Trombley assumed the office of president at Southwestern University in July 2020, taking the helm in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. She implemented a reopening plan that allowed students to return to campus safely in the fall, with seventy percent of classes held in person and a COVID-19 positivity rate that remained extremely low due to stringent health and sanitation protocols. In the spring semester, Southwestern set an enrollment record and ended the year with a substantial surplus. Trombley led the university’s fundraising effort and Southwestern Giving Day set record highs for both the number of donors and dollars raised. Under Trombley’s leadership, Southwestern became an inaugural member of the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance (LACRELA) and the Board of Trustees revised the university’s investment statement to include an expectation that vendors will share a commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce. Last fall, the university hosted its first virtual Homecoming, with alumni from twenty states and eight countries joining the online festivities. In May, the school held two in-person commencements, one for the class of 2020 and one for the class of 2021. Trombley also established a twenty-person Tactical Planning Task Force to plan for the institution’s future by implementing a Five-Year Tactical Plan.  

The inauguration of President Trombley is part of Southwestern’s Homecoming weekend. The weekend, which is themed Southwestern First, will celebrate Southwestern’s history as the first university in Texas and the first university in the entire country to hold a homecoming. Homecoming weekend will include a dedication of the painting “Shaping the Future,” by artist Norma Miller Clark ’97, P’00, as well as annual festivities including the Homecoming picnic, twenty-four class reunion parties, athletic games and the Homecoming Worship Service. 

The time has come to officially welcome President Trombley to Southwestern, and we hope you will join us in giving her the support she deserves. Please consider making a gift to the university in recognition of her past triumphs and future aspirations.