New Endowed Humanities Chair Honors Colgate’s 15th President

Back to All Stories

Colgate University’s 15th president, Rebecca S. Chopp, will be recognized for her leadership with an endowed chair in the humanities, named in her honor. The endowment will be established through gifts totaling more than $2 million from a group of former trustees, led by Board Chair Emeritus John Golden ’66, H’07.

“I want to thank John and his fellow trustees for their generosity and President Chopp for her stewardship of this remarkable institution,” said President Brian W. Casey. “In so many ways, her administration laid the foundations upon which we have built The Third-Century Plan.” 

The Third-Century Plan, launched last spring, calls specifically for increased faculty support and the creation of additional endowed chairs.

Colgate’s first female president, Chopp served from 2002 through 2009. She led the development of Colgate’s 2003 strategic plan, which drove the Passion for the Climb Campaign — an effort that ultimately raised $480 million for a wide range of initiatives, including $142 million for financial aid. During her tenure, the University opened the Robert H.N. Ho ’56 Science Center and the renovated Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology. 

Chopp fostered the creation of numerous endowed chairs as well as programs like the Upstate Institute and the Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute, which encourages interdisciplinary learning that has become a hallmark of Colgate’s approach to liberal arts education. “If we kept students confined to disciplines of the 20th century, that [century] is what they would be prepared for,” Chopp said in 2009. “Core distinctions, high honors, interdisciplinary programs, institutes — all of those kinds of things are, at heart, about continuing the tradition of preparing students for the world in which they will live.”

Many of Colgate’s current wellness programs, residential education initiatives, and community partnerships spring from efforts initiated during the Chopp presidency. It was her understanding of Colgate’s distinctive spirit, her commitment to the excellence of its academic program, and her ability to connect with the community that inspired Golden and his fellow trustees to make their gift.

“All of the emeriti trustees who spearheaded the establishment of the Rebecca S. Chopp Chair in the Humanities did so out of the deepest appreciation and affection for President Chopp,” Golden said. “Rebecca served during a period of transition — both in the leadership of our college and in the need to address challenges in our residential structure. Rebecca handled these issues, which were not without deep debate, with aplomb and a steady hand.”

Chopp arrived at Colgate after serving as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Emory and the dean and Titus Street Professor of theology at Yale Divinity School. She went on to become president of Swarthmore College and chancellor of the University of Denver. 

Reflecting on her years as Colgate’s president, Chopp said, “We have been able, because of the generosity of alumni and parents, to do some wonderful things: build new buildings, expand financial aid, create faculty chairs, and endow coaching positions.” Ten years later, the tradition continues, and those wonderful things include a chair in her own name.