IWU welcomes first female president

By Katie Fata Nov22,2019

Interim president S. Georgia Nugent was appointed the 20th president of Illinois Wesleyan on Nov. 15, making her the first female president IWU has had in almost 170 years as an institution. 

Nugent was appointed as interim President in August of 2019 after a hasty retirement from former president Eric Jensen. 

“When Georgia and I first met to discuss the interim position, she made it very clear that she would be more than just a caretaker of IWU,” said Board Chair Timothy J. Szerlong ’74. 

Nugent previously served as president of Kenyon College in Ohio from 2003 to 2013 and interim president of The College of Wooster from 2015 to 2016. 

She is also a Senior Fellow at The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC).

At the announcement event, faculty, students and staff offered their confidence in Nugent’s skills and future plans for the University. 

“Her warmth, approachability and genuine interest in students will allow her to grow in building relationships that will enhance campus life,” sophomore Wah Chook said. 

Many speakers congratulated Nugent on her achievement as IWU’s first female president. 

Szerlong touched on the subject, saying that the board was looking specifically for a woman during the search for a new president. 

He told the crowd that it was time, in today’s world, to move towards diversity. 

Philosophy Professor Mary Coleman, who said she has followed Nugent’s career since 2003, also shared her excitement. 

“At Kenyon, she was the first woman president. At Wooster College, she was the first woman president and at Illinois Wesleyan, she is the first woman president,” Coleman said. 

“She is a trailblazer within academia.” 

Students shared mixed emotions on the celebration of Nugent’s gender in regards to her position. 

“I am honored to witness the first female president at IWU, and am excited to continue to grow with and because of Dr. Nugent as a collective campus,” junior Amy Gourley said. 

The growth that Gourley is referring are Nugent’s goals to implement a strategic plans, boost fundraising efforts and possibly add new academic programs. 

While students share Gourley’s excitement, some are focusing on the bittersweet aspect of the focus on her gender. 

“The fact that through nineteen different presidents we never appointed a woman is astounding to me,” senior Bailey Reichert said. 

Sophomore Isabel Sperry also touched on the irony of the celebration, as she believes Nugent’s gender should not be need to be celebrated at this point. 

Sperry said she hoped the future of the University would be positively impacted by the perspective of a woman. 

“Women in academia have to work so much harder, and that gives them a very unique perspective going into leadership positions like presidencies,” Sperry said. 

Nugent, within her speech, didn’t focus on the historical impact of her appointment, but instead on the community aspect she plans to implement within her term. 

“I want to propose today a new, unofficial, motto for IWU: I, With You; The I is in this is not egotistical, it is a recognition. Every single individual matters,” Nugent said.

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