Agnes Scott College President Elizabeth Kiss announced Monday her plans to step down in June 2018, at the end of her twelfth year as head of the private women’s college.
Beth Holder, who chairs Agnes Scott’s Board of Trustees, credited Kiss with improving the school’s national reputation and bolstering enrollment during a time when many women’s colleges struggled.
“Her biggest challenge was identifying what makes us unique to attract young women,” Holder said. “She was able to do that and crystallize it and define it and roll it out and sell it.”
Kiss, 56, who had been serving under a one-year contract extended annually, said she informed the board of her decision to step down. The board likely would otherwise have renewed Kiss’s contract, Holder said.
“I felt like the college is going strong and firing on all cylinders,” Kiss said. “It was the right time to step down and pass the baton.”
Kiss said she does not have immediate plans after leaving Agnes Scott but may pursue leading another college or some other type of leadership role. Kiss previously was director of Duke University’s Kenan Institute for Ethics and was an associate professor of the practice of political science and philosophy at Duke.
Kiss led Agnes Scott through a national recession that hit private schools like Agnes Scott hard. She launched a $100 million fundraising campaign for the college that exceeded its fundraising goal.
Under her leadership, Agnes Scott established new majors and new partnerships with Emory University and Georgia Tech and created a new core curriculum focused on “global learning” and leadership.
Kiss cited that curriculum, under which freshman go on faculty-led trips and students create their own “board of advisers” and digital portfolios, as her biggest accomplishment. It’s the answer to a key question prospective students ask: “Why Agnes Scott?,” she said.
“They get something here that they won’t get anywhere else,” she said.
Kiss also started new student-focused traditions at Agnes Scott, including an annual karaoke party for seniors just before graduation, hosting a freshman ice cream social and inviting international students to her home to share holiday traditions from their countries and to decorate her tree.
“Agnes Scott College is a better place today because of Elizabeth Kiss’ extraordinary leadership and unwavering commitment to our mission of educating women to be strong leaders in a global society,” Holder said in a written statement. “Elizabeth’s transformative leadership will be felt on this campus for years to come. She will truly be missed.”
Agnes Scott’s board has hired a firm to conduct an international search for Kiss’s successor. Trustees expect to name a successor in early 2018, Holder said.