An internationally known scholar of Islamic studies whose expertise is in the Quran and relations between Islam and Christianity was selected as the eighth president of Bryn Mawr College yesterday.
The appointment of Jane Dammen McAuliffe was announced to the college community by pealing bells from Taylor Hall.
McAuliffe, dean of the college of arts and sciences at Georgetown University, said she planned to emphasize the natural sciences and multiculturalism when she takes over from Nancy J. Vickers on July 1.
She wants to beef up science offerings and actively recruit international students to the 123-year-old liberal-arts campus.
Bryn Mawr, McAuliffe said, has already diversified the 1,300-student campus "more than most institutions in the United States. I want to continue that work but reach out even more aggressively" to foreign students.
The college's international students come from 43 countries. Thirty-three percent of the student body are minorities or international students.
McAuliffe's specialty is the Muslim holy book and its interpretations, early Islamic history, and the interrelationships between Islam and Christianity.
She recently completed a six-volume Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, the first reference work of its kind in a Western language.
She served for a decade on the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations With Muslims.
"Given her outstanding leadership ability and deep experience, I can think of no one to whom I would rather entrust the bright future of Bryn Mawr College than Jane McAuliffe," said board of trustees chair Sally Hoover Zeckhauser.
"She is an exceptionally strong, accomplished and visionary woman. During her tenure at Georgetown, she served as a creative and effective advocate for change, and as an exemplar for distinguished scholarship. She is universally admired for having cultivated close collegial relationships."
McAuliffe, who is married to Dennis McAuliffe, a medieval Italian literature scholar, and has four children, is a graduate of a women's college, Trinity College in Washington. She got her master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Toronto.
She has been dean of Georgetown College since 1999 and before that held faculty and administrative positions at the University of Toronto and Emory University.
McAuliffe takes over at Bryn Mawr following a $232 million fund-raising campaign.
Another challenge that all colleges face, she said, is to make school as affordable as possible to the broadest group of students.
"I have a track record as a fund-raiser," she said. "I expect those skills will be put to good use."
The college gives financial aid to 58 percent of its students.
The school, which has a student-faculty ratio of 8-1, has been listed among the Wall Street Journal's top 10 feeder schools to the nation's top law, medical and business schools. The five most popular majors are English, political science, biology, math and ssychology.
"Over the past year, we canvassed a very diverse field of extraordinary candidates across all areas of professional accomplishment, both within and beyond the academy," said Arlene Joy Gibson, a college trustee who chaired the presidential search committee.
"Jane rose to the top of that field because her vision, intellect, and commitment to women's education are a perfect fit for the Bryn Mawr community. Frankly, it was amazing how Jane fulfilled our highest aspirations of who the next president of the college should be."