Huntington Library Names New President

Karen Lawrence
Karen Lawrence

After more than a year of searching, the Huntington Library has selected its new president, naming academic Karen Lawrence as the new executive last week.
Lawrence will take the helm on Sept. 1 as the institution’s ninth president, replacing Laura Trombley, who resigned March 2017 after receiving a Twain Scholarship award and embarking on a book-length study. Lawrence, who has spent the past decade as president of Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York, will live at the Huntington Library.
“I’m really thrilled to be taking on this position,” Lawrence said in a phone interview last week. “I love Southern California, and it’s great to be living back here again. I’m from New Jersey, so snow doesn’t faze me much, but I will say there’s nothing like Southern California weather.
“I look forward to becoming a part of this community,” she added.
Before joining Sarah Lawrence College, Lawrence was dean of the humanities college at UC Irvine for nine years. At both institutions, Lawrence said she worked to give students opportunities to apply their liberal arts educations in practical ways once outside of college and, at Sarah Lawrence, expanded environmental sciences and arts offerings.
At the Huntington Library, Lawrence said she hopes to continue and expand the institution’s programming and outreach that targets formal students of all levels and also autodidacts.
“I think there’s such a strength to be built on in the American collection, as well as the strength in the British and European collections,” she said. “I look forward to helping the Huntington welcome new and young audiences. There are loads of school-aged children coming to the Huntington, and there’s a lot of education at the Huntington. Just the opportunity to have the original artifact in front of you — as opposed to reading in a textbook — is a wonderful treat for anyone learning at any level.”
Lawrence called the Huntington Library a “world class” cultural resource center and added how lucky Angelenos are to have it right in the neighborhood.
“To have that kind of landmark right in your backyard is so fortunate,” she said. “To be able to go on any given day and see the beautiful gardens and also the extraordinary collections, I think that must be a real treat for those who live around the Huntington, as well as those who come from abroad.”
Lawrence’s hiring was announced in a news release by the Huntington Library’s Board of Directors last week.
“Karen’s combination of qualities — her collaborative leadership style, unflappable nature and strong scholarly background — convinced the search committee that she’s absolutely the right person to lead the Huntington at this time, especially as we gear up for our centennial and several major projects ahead,” said board chair Loren Rothschild in the announcement.
Those significant projects include the ongoing conservation effort on the iconic portrait “The Blue Boy,” part of which will take place in public view this fall, as well as the expansion of the Huntington Library’s popular Chinese Garden that is set to begin later this year.
Lawrence, an expert on Irish novelist James Joyce, routinely taught classes on the avant-garde writer while at Sarah Lawrence College. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Yale, her master’s degree from Tuft’s and her doctorate from Columbia.

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