After 17 years as president of Emerson College, Jacqueline Liebergott announced this afternoon that she is stepping down on June 30, 2011.
Liebergott, 67, said in an emotional meeting with faculty and students that she made the decision with mixed emotions.
"I have accomplished lots here and the college is in incredible shape," Liebergott told the Globe today. "It's a good time for me and the college to transition to new leadership."
The first female president of the college since its founding in 1880, Liebergott began her tenure in 1992 as an interim president, just several years after Emerson attempted and failed to move from Boston to Lawrence. With Liebergott at the helm, Emerson relocated from the Back Bay to the Theatre District beginning in 1992. Liebergott believes that the move is one of her greatest accomplishments at the school, which is known for its strong arts and communications programs.
"After moving, we improved the visibility of the college on a national level, doubled the size of the faculty members, and grew more academic programs," Liebergott said.
The chairman of Emerson's Board of Trustees, Peter Meade, said the numbers tell the story behind Liebergott's leadership.
"I would say the student enrollment, number of students at Emerson and rising SAT scores are just some of Jackie's accomplishments," Meade said.
Since 1993, Emerson has invested $450 million in establishing the campus, located near the Boston Common. Full-time faculty increased from 91 to 178, and the number of applications increased nearly four-fold, from 1,849 to 6,943. With that, the average SAT scores of applicants rose from 1,110 to 1,215. Full-time enrollment increased 55 percent, from 2,561 to 3,949.
The average tenure of a college president, nationally, is 8.5 years. Liebergott said the reasons she stayed long was her love for the school.
"I loved my job, and I love the institution," Liebergott said. "I set out with several plans, including the move from the Back Bay, which took lots of time to complete."
Liebergott said she spoke to the board about her plans to resign. Meade said the board asked Liebergott to stay for an extra two years, to see the completion of projects she had initiated.
One of those projects is the completion of the soon-to-open Paramount Center, which will increase Emerson's facilities space to a million square feet, compared to 400,000 in 1993, and will mark the completion of the Boston campus.
Meade said the changes she has made over the 17 years will mark Liebergott's legacy at Emerson.
"I think people will say that Jackie transformed Emerson College," Meade said. "The quality of the faculty improved, the college more than doubled in size, and our place in the community and national stage changed, that's her legacy."
Liebergott joined Emerson in 1970 as a faculty member in the Department of Communications Sciences and Disorders. Liebergott was Dean of Graduate Studies from 1984 until 1987, and Vice President/Academic Dean from 1987 until 1992. She was officially named president in 1993 after serving as an interim president in 1992. Liebergott was also an American Council of Education Fellow in 1987.
Liebergott, a Baltimore native, graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor's degree in communication disorders, and a master's/doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh. She lives in Newton with her husband and two children.
She said her plans after stepping down are unclear.
"First I have to finish 18 months of work here, finish some projects that I am involved in, and that time will allow me to finalize what I will do in 2011," she said.
On the beat
Columnist Kevin Cullen says Bobby Long and Tom Foley did more than the entire FBI to bring Whitey Bulger to justice. Read more