CIC Welcomes New Board Members

The CIC Board of Directors elected seven new members during its January 2–3, 2021, meeting.

CIC President Richard Ekman remarked, “We are delighted that these dynamic and talented leaders have joined the Board of Directors. They bring enormous dedication to independent higher education and significant experience in the leadership of colleges and universities to CIC’s work. My colleagues and I look forward to working with them as they help plan for the future.”

Elected for Three-Year Terms


Carmen Twillie Ambar headshotCarmen Twillie Ambar

Ambar is the 15th president of Oberlin College (OH) and the first African American leader in the college’s 184-year history. She was appointed to the post in 2017 after serving for nine years as president of Cedar Crest College (PA). Prior to Cedar Crest, Ambar had a successful tenure as vice president and dean of Douglass College at Rutgers University, where she was the youngest dean in the university’s history. Earlier, Ambar served as assistant dean of graduate education at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, and as an assistant corporation counsel in the New York City Law Department. She is a faculty member for CIC’s New Presidents Program. Ambar earned a bachelor of science degree in foreign service from Georgetown University, a master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton University, and a juris doctorate from Columbia Law School.

John Knapp headshotJohn C. Knapp

Knapp is the 13th president of Washington & Jefferson College (PA). He also serves as a professor of religion in the college’s department of philosophy. Prior to joining Washington & Jefferson in 2017, he was president of Hope College (MI). Earlier, he was the founding director of Samford University’s (AL) Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership, where he concurrently served as University Professor and held an endowed professorship. Knapp also served as professor and director of the Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business. He chairs the Oxford Conclave on Global Higher Education, serves as chair of the CIC/New York Times Presidents Council, and is a member of the boards of the American Association of Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities, Clemson University’s Robert J. Rutland Institute for Ethics, and the Pennsylvania Consortium for the Liberal Arts. Knapp earned a BS in urban life with a concentration in communication from Georgia State University, an MA in theological studies from Columbia Theological Seminary, and a PhD in theology and religious studies from the University of Wales, United Kingdom.

Mary Eileen O'Brien headshotMary Eileen O’Brien, OP

O’Brien is president of Dominican College (NY) and a member of the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt. She was elected to serve as Dominican College president in 1979 and remained in that position until she was elected to a six-year term as president of the Sisters of St. Dominic. She was chosen to serve again as president of the college after that time. Previously, she assisted the president of Dominican College, served as the principal of St. Luke’s School, and taught mathematics at St. Pius High School and St. Benedict’s School. O’Brien has been a member of several boards and councils, including the Caldwell University (NJ) board of trustees, Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference president’s council, and the Helen Hayes Hospital board of visitors; she also was co-chair of the Rockland Economic Development’s 40 Under 40 Program. She currently serves as chair of the Dominican Higher Education Council. O’Brien earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from Dominican College, master’s degrees from both Manhattan College and Teachers College of Columbia University, and a doctoral degree in educational administration and supervision from Fordham University.

Charles Pollard headshotCharles W. Pollard

Pollard has been the president of John Brown University (AR) since 2004. He previously taught English literature at Calvin University (MI) for seven years. Before his service in higher education, he was an associate with the law firm Latham & Watkins. Pollard serves on the boards of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, which he chaired from 2013 to 2018, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Arvest Bank, and Mercy Northwest Arkansas. He has published two books: May It Always Be True: Educating Students in Faith (2011) and New World Modernisms: T.S. Eliot, Derek Walcott, and Kamau Brathwaite (2005). Pollard received a BA in English from Wheaton College (IL), a JD from Harvard Law School, an MA in English from Oxford University, and a PhD in English from the University of Virginia.

Lyle Roelofs headshotLyle D. Roelofs

Roelofs began his tenure as Berea College’s (KY) ninth president in 2012. Previously, he served as associate provost and held an endowed faculty chair as distinguished professor of computational science at Haverford College (PA). He also was provost, dean of faculty, and interim president of Colgate University. Roelofs has more than 35 years of experience in teaching and research at the University of Maryland, Calvin University (MI), Brown University, Haverford College, and Colgate University. His academic and scholarly research has resulted in substantial grants from organizations, including the Research Corporation and the National Science Foundation. Other honors include the Humboldt Research Fellowship and the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Teaching Fellowship. He received a BS degree in physics and mathematics from Calvin College and earned MS and PhD degrees, both in physics, at the University of Maryland.

Roderick Smothers headshotRoderick L. Smothers

Smothers began his tenure as president of Philander Smith College (AR) in 2015. Previously, he served as vice president for institutional advancement at Huston-Tillotson University (TX) and Langston University. While at Langston, Smothers also was the associate vice president for academic affairs, assistant dean of the school of education and behavioral sciences, and assistant professor of education. Earlier, he was a faculty member at University of Louisiana-Lafayette, dean of enrollment management at South Louisiana Community College, and an administrator in academic and student affairs at Louisiana State University. Smothers serves on the board of directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas; he formerly served on the board of directors of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., as its southwestern regional vice president. Smothers earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in higher education administration, and a doctoral degree in educational leadership, research, and counseling, all from Louisiana State University. In addition, he has served as a U.S. Air Force reservist with active-duty time spent during Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

Elected for a Two-Year Term


Kathleen Murray headshotKathleen M. Murray

Murray has served as the 14th president of Whitman College (WA) since 2015. Previously, she was provost and dean of the faculty of Macalester College and provost of Birmingham-Southern College (AL). Over the course of 19 years, Murray was a member of the piano faculty, dean of the Conservatory of Music, and dean of the faculty at Lawrence University. A frequent performer, she also is a clinician and adjudicator both nationally and internationally, as well as the author of numerous articles on music and music education. She is recorded on the CRI label. Murray received a bachelor of music degree from Illinois Wesleyan University, master of music in piano performance from Bowling Green State University, and doctor of music in piano performance and pedagogy from Northwestern University.


Recognition of Board Members Whose Terms of Service Ended in January

During the CIC Annual Business Meeting on January 6, 2021, CIC recognized five departing Board members whose terms of service on the CIC Board of Directors were ending. These Board members include Jorge G. Gonzalez, president of Kalamazoo College (MI); Mary Dana Hinton, president of Hollins University (VA); Suzanne K. Mellon, president of Carlow University (PA); Elizabeth L. Paul, president of Nazareth College (NY); and Susan D. Stuebner, president of Colby-Sawyer College (NH).

View the full Board of Directors roster.



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