Return to Institute Homepage Program for Presidential Spouses and Partners

Developed by an advisory group of presidential spouses, the Program for Presidential Spouses and Partners—the oldest and largest of its kind in the country—runs concurrently with the program for presidents and provides opportunities to share information and advice. Spouses and partners of presidents also are welcome at sessions for presidents, unless otherwise noted. As additional speakers and sessions are confirmed, information will be added to this page.


7:15–8:15 a.m.

Breakfast Discussions

Presidential spouses and partners are invited to participate in discussions organized by years of service. Participants will determine the discussion topics.
10:15 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
Welcome, Address, and Luncheon

The Presidential Spouse or Partner: A Changing Role in Higher Education

Many college, university, and system leaders have significant others, but few studies have examined their campus roles, responsibilities, and perspectives. In spring 2016, researchers at the University of Minnesota surveyed spouses and partners across various institutional types, as a follow-up to a 1983 survey, seeking data to describe these institutional players in a contemporary context. The purpose of the study was to inform practice, governance, and leadership in higher education and to identify avenues for future research. The results of the current study highlight the nature and scope of the roles and respondents’ involvement with them. The team also will present research findings on the availability and management of official presidential residences, personal and professional pursuits of spouses and partners, and rewards and challenges of the roles. Members of the research team will discuss how the roles of presidential spouses and partners have changed over the last 30 years.

Gwendolyn H. Freed is chief development officer at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs of the University of Minnesota and a faculty member at the university’s Jandris Center for Innovative Higher Education. Previously, she served as vice president for institutional advancement at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle and vice president for marketing and communication at Gustavus Adolphus College, among other positions. She is an investigator for the 2016 survey of presidential spouses and partners. Freed’s writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal and Chronicle of Higher Education. Her primary research interests include governance and leadership, external relations, and organizational identity in higher education. An alumna of the Harvard Institute for Educational Management, she holds a PhD in educational policy and administration and a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Minnesota, as well as music degrees from the Juilliard School and Oberlin Conservatory.
Darwin D. Hendel is an associate professor in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota and is the principal investigator for the 2016 survey of presidential spouses and partners. His research involves addressing student and faculty issues in higher education from the perspective of differential psychology, with a particular interest in institutional planning, performance, and accountability; student performance, retention, and satisfaction; and evaluation of teaching and measurement of learning. Hendel earned a BA from Saint John’s University (MN) in mathematics and psychology and a PhD from the University of Minnesota in psychology.

2:00–4:00 p.m.

Networking and Discussion Session: Meet and Greet

Presidential spouses and partners are invited to gather for a lively social event that will provide an opportunity to talk with other spouses and partners, one at a time, about topics of mutual interest. Come meet new friends and greet dear ones. A short informal reception, with refreshments, will follow the initial introductions.


7:15–8:15 a.m.

Breakfast Roundtable Discussions

10:15–11:30 a.m.

Concurrent Sessions


Tips for Being Healthy in the Role of Presidential Spouse or Partner

The role of presidential spouse or partner is full of joys, challenges, and stresses. There are many scheduling demands, events to attend, and family members to look after, as well as jobs and opportunities for travel. Learn from fellow spouses and partners about ways to balance your life, reduce stress, and stay active.
Sara Titus, Presidential Spouse, Iowa Wesleyan University

Joint Session with Presidents

The 2016 Survey of Presidential Spouses and Partners

As a follow-up to a 1983 survey, in 2016 researchers at the University of Minnesota surveyed spouses and partners of presidents across various institutional types seeking data to describe these institutional players in their contemporary context. Members of the research team will present an overview of the results and lead a discussion with CIC-member spouses and partners on the significance of the findings.
Christine Burns-DiBiasio, Presidential Spouse, Ohio Northern University
Daniel A. DiBiasio, President, Ohio Northern University
Gwendolyn H. Freed, Director of Development, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and adjunct faculty member, Jandris Center for Innovative Higher Education, University of Minnesota
Pamela J. Gunter-Smith, President, York College of Pennsylvania
Darwin D. Hendel, Associate Professor, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota
J. Lawrence Smith, Presidential Spouse, York College of Pennsylvania
11:45 a.m.–1:00 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

(Boxed lunches will be available.)

Building a Welcoming Campus Community

Students of all backgrounds as well as faculty and staff members are able to thrive when they feel welcomed and valued on campus. How can presidential spouses and partners help build—and maintain—a welcoming community on campus for all students? Are there events or programs that spouses and partners can support that celebrate differences in heritage, background, and culture while binding the community together in a common campus mission? How can we communicate effectively and compassionately with people whose life experiences are different from our own?
Steve Dietz, Presidential Spouse, Reinhardt University
Marcia Millet, Presidential Spouse, Stillman College

Incorporating Super Foods into the Campus Food Service

Please note: A separate lunch will be provided for participants in this session.
Super foods, so-called because of their high nutrient content, may offer health benefits with few or no negative properties. Certified chefs and registered dieticians from Metz Culinary Management have developed recipes boasting nutrient-packed dishes with artistic flair and universal appeal. Fresh, colorful, and seasonal foods will be used to prepare super foods, and presenters will discuss how they can be incorporated into everyday campus food services as well as special events and catering. Participants will receive tips on what to look for (and avoid) when grocery shopping, finding local sources of super foods, and using super foods to support sustainability efforts.
Kim Brenkus, Director, Learning and Development, Metz Culinary Management
John E. Geronimo, Vice President for Sales, Metz Culinary Management
Ryan McNulty, Director, Culinary Development, Metz Culinary Management
Gary Owen, Regional Support Chef, Metz Culinary Management
1:30–3:30 p.m.

Networking and Discussion Sessions

Presidential spouses and partners will exchange information about starting and maintaining student ambassador programs and tips for being an effective partner for the president. Please bring materials to share if you have them. Ideas will be posted online for easy reference after the Institute.
1:30–2:25 p.m.

Student Ambassador Programs

2:35–3:30 p.m.

Ideas for Being an Effective Partner to a College or University President



7:30–8:30 a.m.

Breakfast Roundtable Discussions

8:45–9:45 a.m.

Concurrent Sessions


Presidential Spouses and Partners in Nontraditional Roles

Although some presidential couples still feel comfortable in the traditional roles of president and spouse, many do not. How do spouses and partners who have demanding careers outside the college or university, live and work in another place, or are in other nontraditional circumstances find their way through the maze of responsibilities of the role of presidential spouse or partner?
Mary Baremore, Presidential Spouse, Gallaudet University
Frank S. Becker, Presidential Spouse, Franklin College (IN)
Robert Biral, Presidential Spouse, Hamline University

Joint Session with Presidents

Book Study: In Defense of a Liberal Education by Fareed Zakaria

The value of a liberal education has been under scrutiny for the last few years. In his book, In Defense of a Liberal Education (2015), Fareed Zakaria describes what a liberal education is—and is not—and discusses the value of a liberal education to American society and the world. This session will begin with a video of an interview with Zakaria, followed by small group discussions around tables, and end with a guided discussion of the themes emphasized in the text. It is recommended (but not required) that participants read the book in advance.
Robyn Allers, Presidential Spouse, McDaniel College
Roger N. Casey, President, McDaniel College
Nayef H. Samhat, President, Wofford College
Prema Samhat, Presidential Spouse, Wofford College