POUGHKEEPSIE, NY (January 10, 2006) – Vassar College today announced the unanimous election by its Board of Trustees of Catharine B. (Cappy) Hill, Provost and the John J. Gibson Professor of Economics at Williams College (Williamstown, Mass.), as the tenth president of Vassar, effective July 1, 2006. Hill is a noted economist whose work focuses on higher education affordability and access, as well as economic development and reform in Africa.
Vassar's current president, Frances D. Fergusson, announced in February 2005 her plans to leave as of June 30, 2006 the post she has held for 20 years.
"The American liberal arts college experience has shaped my life in fundamental ways," said Hill, a 1976 summa cum laude graduate of Williams College, who was selected following an extensive national search that yielded more than 200 candidates. "Vassar has long been an extraordinary leader among liberal arts institutions in its commitment to educational innovation and creativity and in its efforts to provide access to all students. I am honored to have the opportunity to continue to build on those achievements."
Hill also earned B.A. and M.A. degrees at Brasenose College, Oxford University, with First Class Honours in politics, philosophy and economics, and a Ph.D. in economics at Yale University.
"The trustees enthusiastically welcome Cappy as Vassar's next president," said Richard Van Demark, chair of the College's Board of Trustees. "By all measures, Vassar is stronger today than it has ever been, thanks to the vision and leadership of Frances Fergusson and the exceptional work of our faculty, staff and alumnae/i.
Cappy is at the forefront of issues affecting residential liberal arts colleges like Vassar," said Van Demark, "and I am confident she will continue to improve this remarkable college."
Since July 1999 Hill has held the position of Provost at Williams College, where she has major financial and academic responsibilities. As chief financial officer of the college, she is responsible for the annual college budget and long-range financial planning, as well as the Controller's office. Hill also has responsibility for the Williams College Museum of Art, the Williams College Libraries and the offices of Admissions, Financial Aid and Information Technology. She is also a member of the Committee on Appointments and Promotions, which makes all reappointment and tenure decisions and allocates faculty positions.
Prior to assuming the provost position, Hill chaired Williams's Economics Department from 1997 to 1999, as well as its Center for Development Economics from 1992 to 1994.
She joined the faculty at Williams in 1985. In her earlier career she worked for The World Bank (1982-1987) and the Congressional Budget Office (1981-1982).
"The depth and breadth of Cappy's portfolio as provost of Williams make her one of the most highly qualified senior academic administrators in the country," said William A. Plapinger, vice chair of Vassar's Board of Trustees and chair of the 14-member presidential search committee of trustees, faculty and students. Plapinger, who will succeed Van Demark as chair of the Board of Trustees on July 1, 2006, said Hill was the search committee's unanimous choice.
"Cappy has impeccable academic and administrative credentials and a life-long commitment to important issues in higher education locally and globally, to which she brings knowledge, passion and a unique perspective," he said.
In collaboration with colleague Gordon C. Winston, the Orrin Sage Professor of Economics at Williams and another of the leading voices on the economics of higher education, Hill has co-authored numerous papers and publications addressing the issues of affordability and accessibility, including Access to the Most Selective Private Colleges by High-Ability, Low-Income Students: Are They Out There? (presented to the Macalester-Spencer Forum, June 2005 and the Forum for the Future of Higher Education, September 2005) and "Affordability: Family Incomes and Net Prices at Highly Selective Private Colleges and Universities" (Journal of Human Resources, fall 2005), among others.
In addition, Hill has been selected for a number of scholarly awards, grants and fellowships from organizations including the American Council of Learned Societies, the Brookings Institution, the Council on Foreign Relations, the National Science Foundation and the Social Science Research Council. The current work of Hill and her colleagues on the economics and affordability of higher education is primarily supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
"I'm thrilled both for Cappy and for Vassar," said Williams's president Morton Schapiro. "Cappy is an extremely talented teacher, scholar and administrator, who has worked tirelessly to help make Williams what it is today and to position it for an even stronger future. Vassar will now be fortunate to have her, as I have no doubt that she will also help make that great institution even better."
In what she has called one of the most transformative experiences of her life, Hill and her family lived from 1994-1996 in the Republic of Zambia, where she worked in the Ministry of Finance as an advisor for fiscal and trade policy. Hill served under the auspices of the Harvard Institute for International Development's Project on Macroeconomic Reform and has written widely from her experiences in Africa, including co-editing the books Promoting and Sustaining Economic Reform in Zambia (2004) and the widely-reviewed Public Expenditure in Africa (1996). "During her tenure of office in Zambia, Catharine was able to spearhead our fiscal reform," said Petronella N. Mwangala, Permanent Secretary of Budget and Economic Affairs for the Ministry of Finance in Zambia. "Through teamwork and her passion for excellence, she assisted our country to better manage the economy, and the results are there today for all to see."
Hill and her husband, Kent J. Kildahl, Head of the Upper School at Riverdale Country School (Riverdale, New York), have three children—John, a senior at Williams; Thomas, who will begin studies at St. Olaf College (Northfield, Minnesota) next fall; and Elizabeth, a ninth grader. They will move to Vassar in early summer and will live in the President's House on campus. Hill and her family are avid and accomplished golfers.
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