Metro

Wellesley College president to step down

H. Kim Bottomly started as president in August 2007.
Barry Chin/Globe Staff/File
H. Kim Bottomly started as president in August 2007.

The president of Wellesley College, H. Kim Bottomly, announced Friday that she will step down in July 2016 after nine years as head of the school.

Bottomly’s letter to the college gave no reason for her departure. Bottomly announced her decision to the board of trustees during its meeting Friday, according to a news release.

Bottomly is the first scientist to lead the women’s liberal arts college, which has about 2,500 students.

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“It’s been the job of a lifetime,” Bottomly said in an e-mailed statement. “I’ve accomplished what I set out to do here. But it’s time to move on and I’m weighing several options.”

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A search for her replacement will begin immediately, the release said. The chairwoman of the trustees will form a search committee that will work with an outside search firm.

Bottomly, who is in her late 60s, oversaw the school during a difficult financial period and guided it through some controversies, including the admission of transgender women.

She took the helm in August 2007, a year before the financial collapse that crippled the nation. The national recession caused the college’s endowment to shrink and the budget to run in the red. As the country recovered, Bottomly also helped the school rebuild its finances.

The school’s endowment last year rose to $1.9 billion, up from $1.6 billion in 2013. It had dipped to $1.3 billion in 2009 after five years of growth in the early 2000s.

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Wellesley drew 41 percent of its revenue from endowment returns last year, according to the school’s annual financial reports.

The school raised $96 million last year compared with $42 million the prior year, according to its figures.

The college has run an operating deficit in recent years, including a reported $9 million deficit in 2014 and $11 million the year before, the school’s annual reports show.

Trustees chairwoman Laura Daignault Gates called Bottomly’s contributions to the college “extraordinary.”

“From restructuring and fortifying the college’s finances following the historic recession of 2008 to launching a range of important and forward-leaning initiatives, she has been the right president at the right time,” Gates said in statement.

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During her tenure, Bottomly also helped the college become more selective and give greater financial aid, according to the annual reports.

Bottomly cemented collaborations with Olin College of Engineering and Babson College, according to the school. In 2012, Wellesley became the first liberal arts college to join edX, the Harvard-MIT online learning collaborative.

Bottomly, who made $580,000 in 2013, the most recent salary figure available, declined a request for an interview Friday afternoon.

Students said they were surprised by her announcement.

“I think she’s somebody who’s been a really levelheaded leader through a couple chaotic times,” said Hana Glasser, student government president.

The school made headlines last month when it announced it will begin to admit transgender women. That decision came after more than a year of conversation on the campus about gender issues.

Bottomly, at the time of that announcement, said the school would support “all the students who are at Wellesley and all of their kinds of finding themselves in all of the ways that we can.”

Last fall, Bottomly’s removal of a Hillel director and a Jewish chaplain as part of a restructuring angered some students and graduates. Several students at the time described the campus climate as uneasy because of a campaign by a pro-Palestinian activist group, and said the removal of the two trusted staff members was ill-timed.

Before coming to Wellesley, Bottomly served 27 years at Yale University as an immunobiology professor and deputy provost.

A Montana native, she earned her bachelor’s degree and PhD from the University of Washington.

She is married to Wayne Villemez, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Connecticut.

Laura Krantz can be reached at laura.krantz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.