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Making Black History at Lewis & Clark

Educator rises to top as incoming president

Dr. Robin Holmes-Sullivan at Lewis and Clark College in Portland where she will become the college’s first woman and first person of color to serve as president in 155 years. A clinical psychologist by trade, she most recently served as Lewis and Clark’s dean of students.

Dr. Robin Holmes-Sullivan will become the first woman and first person of color to serve as president of Lewis and Clark College, breaking 155 years of history for the private liberal arts school, following her appointment as the college 26th president.

A respected higher education leader with three decades of experience at universities in Oregon and California, Holmes-Sullivan will replace President Wim Wiewel in July when he retires, college officials announced last month. She also makes history by becoming the first Lewis and Clark president who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Holmes-Sullivan is currently the Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students at Lewis & Clark and has been credited for her pivotal role during the Covid pandemic of devising creative approaches that helped keep students safe and progressing toward their degrees.

She enjoyed “significant support” for her appointment from the faculties of all three schools and was the favored candidate of all three academic deans and President Wiewel, college officials said.

“In these tumultuous times, especially in regard to student issues, I can’t think of a more level-headed and experienced leader than Robin,” Wiewel said. “I look forward to working closely with her in the months ahead to make this a very smooth and successful transition.”

Expressing her gratitude to the board and the Lewis & Clark community for their faith in her, Holmes-Sullivan said being selected as President is the logical next step in a career dedicated to helping students realize their full potential.

“I am so proud that my becoming president of Lewis & Clark can influence and inspire a generation of young people to see that they can dream big; that when they speak, people will listen; and that when they lead, people will follow,” she said.

Holmes-Sullivan also told the campus community she looks forward to working collaboratively with all of them, saying her own experience as a Black woman has shown her the importance of “having a diversity of voices at the table in order to influence and build a sense of inclusion, community and excellence.”

Holmes-Sullivan came to Lewis & Clark in 2019 from the University of California, where she co-led an effort to improve student affordability, helped develop a coherent sexual assault policy, assisted in developing a new policy to streamline transfers, and helped craft new policy around free speech and demonstrations.

Previously, she spent 27 years at the University of Oregon, working her way up from a position as a clinical coordinator in the counseling center to Vice President of Student Life.

While at UC, Holmes-Sullivan worked closely with UC President Janet Napolitano, former Governor of Arizona and Secretary of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama.

Holmes-Sullivan credits her father and mother, who worked their way up from entry level jobs to management positions as a Marine and healthcare worker, with instilling in her a lifelong commitment to honesty, integrity, hard work and care and compassion for others. “Those values will continue to be my north star as your president,” she told Lewis & Clark community members.

Robin and her wife, Kathy, have two grown sons, a daughter-in-law and a grandchild.


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