Colby-Sawyer president announces plan to depart

Colby-Sawyer College President Sue Stuebner in an Oct. 6, 2016, photograph in New London, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Colby-Sawyer College President Sue Stuebner in an Oct. 6, 2016, photograph in New London, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Colby-Sawyer College President Sue Stuebner (Courtesy photograph)

Colby-Sawyer College President Sue Stuebner (Courtesy photograph)

By FRANCES MIZE

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-29-2024 5:01 PM

Modified: 04-30-2024 12:20 PM


NEW LONDON — After eight years at the helm of Colby-Sawyer College, Sue Stuebner will depart in June to take up the mantle as president of Marietta College in Ohio.

Under Stuebner’s tenure, Colby-Sawyer’s endowment doubled — from $36 million in 2016 to $72 million in March 2024 — and graduate programs grew from one to 11. Strengthening the college’s health science programs, she also worked to cement a formalized relationship between the small, liberal arts college and Dartmouth Health.

As the college’s ninth president, Stuebner led Colby-Sawyer through a high-profile tuition and financial aid reset, slashing the cost of undergraduate enrollment by around 60% to $17,500, pricing the school at less than half that of similar private colleges in the state.

The college of around 800 undergraduate students, “epitomizes the word ‘community,’ ” Stuebner said in a phone call with the Valley News. “It’s been a privilege to be a part of the transformational education that our students receive here.” While she wasn’t “actively looking for a new position,” her move will land her just a few hours from a grandchild born this past weekend.

A 1993 graduate of Dartmouth College with a doctoral degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Stuebner built her career at small, liberal arts colleges like Colby-Sawyer. Her first role in higher education was in admissions at Albright College in Reading, Penn. She later served for a decade as vice president for administration and planning at Lycoming College in Williamstown, Penn., and most recently as the executive vice president and chief operating officer at Allegheny College in Meadville, Penn.

When she was appointed as president in 2016, Stuebner was staring down a multi-million dollar budget deficit.

“Sue has led the college through a tumultuous time in higher education,” Lisa Hogarty, chair of the Colby-Sawyer Board of Trustees, said in the Monday news release announcing Stuebner’s departure. “Nothing more exemplifies her leadership skills than how she deftly navigated the institution through a global pandemic. She worked closely with the board, senior administrators, and the faculty to build a strategic plan for the college that we continue to execute.”

Stuebner anticipates navigating some of the same challenges that defined her time at Colby-Sawyer in her new position at Marietta College. “All small, regional colleges” should hone in on “the value that we offer in a very competitive landscape of higher education, and at a time when a lot of the confidence in higher ed is pretty low,” she said.

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In her wake, Colby-Sawyer will continue to face the “demographic cliff, the enrollment cliff,” she said. Securing the college’s longevity will be a matter of “continuing to really focus on traditional enrollment as well as other sources of revenue,” such as the further expansion of graduate and professional programs. 

Her final day at the New London school will be June 30, before heading to the Buckeye State in July.

“I feel so fortunate to have learned everything I did here,” Stuebner said. 

 At a meeting of the college’s board of trustees set for this  week, the board will discuss  naming a new interim president  and the launch of a national search for someone to permanently fill the position, the college’s news release said. 

Frances Mize is a Report for America corps member. She can be reached at fmize@vnews.com  or 603-727-3242.