Helen Drinan, credited with bringing stability to Simmons University over her 10-year tenure as president, has announced that she will step down in June 2020.
Drinan took over at Simmons in 2008 as the former all-women’s college was struggling financially with its previous leader on the job for only two years. During Drinan’s tenure, Simmons completed a $100 million fundraising campaign, achieved university status, and expanded its online degree offerings.
“Simmons stands strong today because of Helen Drinan’s leadership,” Regina M. Pisa, the chairwoman of the school’s board of trustees said in a statement. Pisa called Drinan a “progressive and transformative leader.”
Simmons, with 5,700 students, including 1,700 undergraduate women, is located in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood.
Drinan, a former health care and human resources executive was a member of Simmons’ board of trustees, when she was named president of the school on an interim basis. She later assumed the role permanently.
However, her presidency has not been without of controversy. Last year many black alumni and students protested the appointment of a white man to be the first dean of the Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities. The college was named in honor of “PBS Newshour” journalist Ifill, a Simmons graduate who died in 2016 and was among the most high-profile African-American journalists in the country.
In 2014, Drinan also publicly shared her journey battling breast cancer, publishing an essay about it and sending bulletins about her treatments to the Simmons community in her weekly e-mail column.
“I am proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past decade,” Drinan said in the announcement of her departure. “There is no limit to what Simmons can achieve.”
Simmons plans to conduct a nationwide search for its next president and hopes to have a list of finalists in early 2020. The university has hired search-firm Isaacson, Miller.