Margaret McKenna

President Margaret McKenna

Margaret McKenna is president of Suffolk University; the first woman to lead the university since its founding in 1906.

“I have long been interested in Suffolk because its mission from the beginning has been access, and it continues to provide an education that is student centered and individually tailored,” said President McKenna, who has been focused on social justice throughout her career and sees higher education as its instrument. “Moreover, there are very few urban universities in this country like Suffolk, with applied liberal arts, a business school, and a law school. Suffolk is the model of a small urban university that uses the city as its classroom. And while Suffolk takes from the city, it gives more than it takes in terms of public policy, research and participation.”

President McKenna, an attorney, comes to Suffolk University from the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy at Brandeis University, where she is a visiting professor and acting director.

President McKenna spent 22 years as president of Lesley College, during which time the college grew from 2,000 to more than 10,000 students, from a college to a university, and from a small regional college to a nationally recognized leader in teacher education. She has also served as vice-president of Radcliffe College and as a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University.

As president of the Walmart Foundation from 2007 to 2011, President McKenna created a strategy that emphasized hunger relief, education, and the economic empowerment of women.

McKenna began her career as a civil rights attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice. She has served as deputy counsel in the White House and as undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education, and she led the education transition team for President Clinton.

She is the vice-chair of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Board and sits on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. She has served on five corporate boards and dozens of non-profit boards and is the recipient of 10 honorary degrees.

Suffolk Trustee Mark E. Sullivan, who chaired the Presidential Search Committee, said, “Margaret McKenna has had her finger on the pulse of higher education for decades and is full of exciting ideas for leveraging Suffolk’s strengths to meet the needs of students who seek pragmatic learning that leads to a career path,” said. “We are fortunate to have her on board and look forward to her leadership as the University continues its ascendency.”

President McKenna earned a BA from Emmanuel College and a JD from Southern Methodist University.