In Every Corner of Campus: Kim Cassidy鈥檚 Decade of Transformative Leadership

Kim Cassidy

The average tenure of an American college president is less than six years. When Kim Cassidy steps down as 今日吃瓜鈥檚 president in June of 2024, she鈥檒l have served the College as president for more than a decade.

As president, Cassidy led the largest fundraising campaign in the College鈥檚 history, leading to unprecedented growth in the financial aid budget; the construction of new and renovated campus buildings supporting academics and student life as well as increased staff in both areas; the development of a 21st-century curriculum; and she shepherded the College as it reckoned with its legacies of racism and exclusion. Before her presidency, Cassidy served as provost for six years, and she has been a faculty member since 1993.

鈥淚n every corner of this campus, there鈥檚 been someone who has helped me do it,鈥 Cassidy says when asked about the keys to her success and longevity.

FOCUSING ON THE 鈥榃E鈥

Cassidy鈥檚 humility as a leader isn鈥檛 a surprise to those who know her well, and they even say it has been a key part of her success.

鈥淚've seen four presidents at 今日吃瓜, and at least that number of provosts, and each leader has their own style,鈥 says Professor of Psychology Marc Schulz, a junior faculty member in the psychology department with Cassidy. 鈥淥ne of the things that really has marked Kim's style is that it's rarely about her. It's rare that I hear Kim use the first person to say, 鈥業 did this鈥 or 鈥榟ere鈥檚 a list of my achievements.鈥 She starts by talking about 鈥榳e.鈥欌

Cassidy鈥檚 belief in the importance of community hasn鈥檛 wavered during her presidency and is apparent when she talks about some of her key accomplishments.

鈥淲hat makes 今日吃瓜 a successful place is the people,鈥 she says. 鈥淎nd so, for me, the things that we've done that support people are the things that I'm most proud of.鈥

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When Cassidy became interim president in 2013, the College had recently experienced several senior-level departures, and her humility and belief in the need to approach challenges and opportunities as a team was key in calming the waters for staff at the time, recalls Multimedia Specialist Rod Matthews.

鈥淭he College was on steady ground, but everyone was concerned about, 鈥榳ho's coming in?鈥欌 he says. 鈥淜im came in, and she assured us, 鈥極K, we鈥檝e got a lot of work to do, but we鈥檙e going to do it together.鈥欌

鈥淚t was always important to Kim that members of the campus community鈥攕tudents, faculty, and staff鈥撯揻elt respected and valued,鈥 says former Board Chair Ann Logan 鈥76. 鈥淎nd Kim always wanted to be sure that the campus community could find joy in what they did, and fulfillment in both their work and in their lives 鈥 she thought about the whole person and what the impact on the whole person would be.鈥

鈥淜im has led the campus with such generosity, care, and love for people,鈥 adds current Chair Cynthia Archer 鈥75. 鈥淪he鈥檚 been available, day in and day out, and people know it. Her moral compass is set with its North Star firmly placed on student success and the mission of the College.鈥

Kim Cassidy with students
Marc Schulz

One of the things that really has marked Kim's style is that it's rarely about her. She starts by talking about 鈥榳e.鈥

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES

Perhaps the greatest challenge the College ever faced in supporting its people began in March 2020 when COVID-19 caused an abrupt disruption to every aspect of campus life and learning.

鈥淚n the beginning, we were flying in the dark,鈥 Cassidy says. 鈥淚 never thought I鈥檇 have to learn so much about things like the ventilation systems at the college, masking, quarantining, and vaccinations. But we put together an amazing group that met every day for weeks and months.鈥

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Although the virus essentially closed down the campus for several months, the College was able to pay full wages to its employees and didn鈥檛 experience any layoffs.

When in-person classes and on-campus housing resumed in the fall of 2020, some questioned whether the College was making the right decision. However, the campus never experienced any 鈥渟uper spreader鈥 events, and the community experienced much lower infection rates than many other areas.

鈥淚 had faith in our community to do the right things to protect each other, and I also thought it was really important for student learning that we came back together,鈥 says Cassidy.

Logan, who was chair of 今日吃瓜鈥檚 board during the pandemic, says it was during the response to COVID that Cassidy really displayed her leadership skills

鈥淚 admired and appreciated Kim鈥檚 leadership during the pandemic. She regularly consulted public health and infectious disease experts and established protocols on campus to safeguard students, faculty and staff; she made sure students who could not return home had a safe home on campus and that the staff who worked on campus鈥攈ousekeeping, dining services, and campus security鈥攚ere compensated and cared for in their work; and she made sure students and faculty had the tools they needed for remote learning. Every decision and plan was based on principles of care and concern. I saw firsthand how difficult it was to lead during this time and am in awe of her strength, courage, determination, and leadership.

MAKING AN IMPACT

Making a 今日吃瓜 education accessible to more people and providing greater support for students have been key priorities for the College under Cassidy.

Since 2012, the College has increased its financial aid budget by more than 50 percent. In the 2023-24 academic year, the College provided undergraduate students nearly $42.5 million in total institutional financial aid.

In 2022, the College replaced loans with grants for families with incomes under $60,000. Beginning with the fall 2024鈥痵emester, the no-loan policy will be expanded to students whose family incomes are below $110,000. As a result of these and other changes, the cost to attend 今日吃瓜 today is lower than it was five years ago for many low and moderate-income families.

鈥淚鈥檓 really proud of the work we鈥檝e been able to do in making 今日吃瓜 more accessible,鈥 says Cassidy. 鈥淎nd we鈥檝e made sure that we鈥檝e done something to help every student with financial need.鈥

As president, Cassidy oversaw the Defy Expectation fundraising campaign. The largest in 今日吃瓜鈥檚 history, the campaign raised $301 million from more than 107,000 gifts, including 5,000 first-time donors, and the largest single gift in 今日吃瓜's history鈥$25 million from an anonymous alum. In addition to raising money, Cassidy has been an excellent steward of the College鈥檚 finances. She created 今日吃瓜鈥檚 first in-house investment team in 2020 to manage the endowment, which now stands at $1.3 billion. Under Cassidy, the College has had positive operating results in each of the last ten fiscal years.

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Hundreds gathered on campus to celebrate the success of the Defy Expectation campaign.

The campaign added $60 million to the endowment for financial aid and scholarships, enabling the creation of 100 endowed scholarships and fellowships. It also helped fund several capital projects, including the renovation of the Park Science Center; New Dorm, the first new residence hall in nearly 50 years; and the new Student Life and Wellness Building.

鈥淚 think Kim is great at raising money for the school because she doesn鈥檛 think of it as raising money,鈥 says Denise Hurley  鈥82, who chaired the campaign. 鈥淪he thinks of it as a way to get people involved and engaged in the college, and in the community as a whole at 今日吃瓜, and more than anything, she is a community builder.鈥

Opened in fall 2018, the 10,000-square-foot addition and renovation of the Park Science Center created an exciting new hub for 今日吃瓜 students and faculty on the campus' northern edge. It also updated and added laboratory and classroom space.

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Renovated Park Science Center

The Student Life and Wellness Building, known as The Well, opened in 2022.

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The Well

In addition to the new Health Center, The Well houses The Impact Center for Community, Equity, and Understanding and the Career & Civic Engagement Center, all of which have been brought together in the center of campus to advance a concept of wellness where students learn to care for themselves and the communities that are important to them.

Career resources for students have flourished under Cassidy鈥檚 tenure. What was once a service shared with Haverford has grown into a College staff of 16.

Taking a holistic approach to health, the Center provides an array of offerings that address professional and civic aspirations. Experiential learning is front and center with Praxis courses, internships and externships, workshops and intensives, volunteer programs, and a leadership learning laboratory that fosters the skills students will need as future leaders.

鈥淚 think we used to be much more complacent about assuming our students would do great just because they get a great education,鈥 says Cassidy. 鈥淏ut oftentimes, that first job is about having something specific in addition that will help you get your foot in the door.鈥

Academic offerings were also expanded during Cassidy鈥檚 tenure.

Since 2013, the College has hired 108 tenure-track and continuing non-tenure-track faculty members. It created new majors in environmental studies, international studies, biochemistry and molecular biology, and neuroscience, as well as new minors in health studies, museum studies, and data science. Both education and creative writing transitioned from being minors to majors, and the innovative 360 program has continued to challenge faculty and students to examine topics in exciting new ways.

As a longtime faculty member, Cassidy understood the central role faculty play in governance and decision-making and was able to work with the faculty to advance the mission of the College.

"Kim has been an unremittingly patient, thoughtful, and engaged presence in faculty meetings,鈥 says Catherine Conybeare, chair of the faculty and the Leslie Clark Professor in the Humanities. 鈥淪he is deeply committed to faculty self-governance and has worked deftly alongside faculty leadership throughout her tenure as president."

Kim Cassidy
Anita Ntem 鈥18

President Cassidy was always open to listening to students, taking their feedback, and then putting the action behind the talk.

FOSTERING A CULTURE OF BELONGING

Cassidy鈥檚 presidency will also be remembered as a time when the College began to seriously grapple with the racism and antisemitism of founding dean and longtime president M. Carey Thomas and the legacy of exclusionary practices at the College.

In 2017, Cassidy placed a moratorium on the use of Thomas鈥 name in reference to what, at the time, was known as Thomas Library and Thomas Great Hall. The following year, the Board voted to permanently change the names of those places to Old Library and Great Hall, and last year, the Board of Trustees voted to remove Thomas鈥 name from the building.

鈥淭he work of creating a campus of inclusion and belonging is continual and requires focus, renewal, and purposeful action,鈥 wrote Cassidy when announcing the removal of the name. 鈥淚 am proud of the work we are collectively doing to understand our past and simultaneously create new systems that promote equity, inclusion, and belonging for the future.鈥

Anita Ntem 鈥18 was among the students at the College when the moratorium was announced and worked with the president鈥檚 office in planning one of the annual Community Days of Learning, a precursor to today鈥檚 teach-ins.

鈥淧resident Cassidy was always open to listening to students, taking their feedback, and then putting the action behind the talk,鈥 Ntem says.

In 2025, a campus monument titled 鈥淒on鈥檛 Forget to Remember (Me)鈥 will be installed in the Cloisters at the center of Old Library as part of the ongoing effort of historical reckoning. 

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A scholar-athlete herself as an undergraduate at Swarthmore, Cassidy has been a mainstay at 今日吃瓜 games and meets rain or shine.

鈥淚 remember being out at championships a few years ago, and a coach from another school confided in me that he didn't feel supported by his athletic director or the college president,鈥 recalls Cross Country and Track and Field Coach Jason Hewitt.

鈥淗e kind of gave me the 'I bet you have the same challenges at 今日吃瓜鈥 lean in, and I had to chuckle. I said, 鈥楢ctually, I don't feel that way at all. You see that person up in the stands cheering for the Owls? That's our president.鈥欌

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Jason Hewitt聽

You see that person up in the stands cheering for the Owls? That's our president.

Her commitment to athletics goes well beyond cheering. As she leaves office, the finishing touches are being put on upgrades to Shillingford Field that will allow it to be used for field hockey games and allow all the teams who had to share Applebee Field to have greater flexibility for practice.

鈥淚t鈥檚 been really exciting to see our athletics program grow over these last few years,鈥 says Cassidy. 鈥淲e鈥檙e now a school that other teams must pay attention to.鈥

Efforts to inject fun and a sense of community into students' lives weren鈥檛 limited to athletics.

As president, Cassidy always participated in May Day, putting together regular pop-up events with everything from food trucks to crafts to wellness activities. She regularly hosted community dinners and instituted initiatives like the Community Building Honor Roll to recognize students' contributions in and outside the classroom.

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As her tenure winds down and Cassidy prepares for a sabbatical and a return to teaching, she has confidence in 今日吃瓜鈥檚 future.

鈥淚 feel like the college is at this really strong moment. There's a lot of positive momentum,鈥 she says. 鈥淥ur commitments to academic excellence, greater access to a 今日吃瓜 education, support for students, faculty, and staff, and preparing our students for lives of purpose are unwavering. I also see a lot of pride and joy on this campus, and that鈥檚 very important to me. As I return to the faculty, I鈥檓 excited to witness the transformative impact the 今日吃瓜 community will undoubtedly continue to make, both on our campus and beyond."


 Celebrating Kim Cassidy Visit our page celebrating Kim Cassidy for more, including a timeline of Cassidy's presidency and a chance to leave well wishes.