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February 01, 2016

Suffolk University’s board of trustees is expected Friday to vote on whether to oust current president Margaret McKenna. McKenna is the fifth person to serve as president of the university in five years. Who are the people who came before her and why are they no longer at the university? 

David J. Sargent (1989-2010)

Suffolk University President David J. Sargent (1989-2010) in front of bookshelves. (John Gillooly/ Moakley Archive & Institute)

David J. Sargent’s 21-year tenure ended abruptly in October, 2010, when the 79-year-old announced he would be retiring immediately -- more than two years before his scheduled retirement. As the Boston Globe reported Sargent was forced out after a unanimous vote by the university’s board of trustees. The move came amid student and faculty outcry on campus about Sargent's unusually high compensation package (1.5 million) and other issues.

Barry Brown (interim, 2010-2012)

Barry Brown was appointed Provost of Suffolk University in 2008 and assumed the combined role of Acting President and Provost in 2010. (Courtesy of Mount Ida College)

Barry Brown served as Suffolk's acting president following David Sargent’s retirement in 2010. After two years on the job, he accepted a position as the eighth president of Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts.

James McCarthy (2012-2014)

James McCarthy was marked as Suffolk University’s ninth president in 2012. (Courtesy of Suffolk University)

James McCarthy came to Suffolk in 2012, after serving as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Baruch College in New York City. His two-year tenure ended abruptly in 2014, when McCarthy quietly stepped down from his position -- with a year remaining in his contract. His departure came at a time when the school was in deep financial debt and facing drops in enrollment and revenue. According to a press release from Suffolk, McCarthy left “to pursue consulting and business opportunities.” Dr. Norman R. Smith was immediately named the interim president. The Globe reported Andrew Meyer, chairman of the board of trustees, described the departure as "amicable.”

Norman R. Smith (interim, 2014-2015)

Norman R. Smith was named the interim president of Suffolk in 2014, immediately after it was announced that James McCarthy would be stepping down.

Norman Smith came to the interim president position with plenty of experience in the higher education sector; he had previously served as president of Wagner College in New York and as former assistant dean to the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He was replaced by Margaret McKenna in 2015.

Margaret McKenna (2015-Present)

Margaret McKenna says she refuses to resign from her position as President of Suffolk. (Courtesy of Suffolk University)

Before taking the position at Suffolk, Margaret McKenna served as vide president of Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Suffolk’s Board is moving to remove McKenna just eight months after she took the job because it believes her spending decisions have undermined finances. McKenna says she won’t resign and the board will have to fire her. This comes as Suffolk faces a host of challenges, including dwindling enrollment and skyrocketing costs


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