Scripps president leaves college to helm Natural History Museum

Scripps College announced Wednesday that Lori Bettison-Varga, president of the school since 2009, will leave her post this fall. Ms. Bettison-Varga has been named president and director of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, pending approval by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

“President Bettison-Varga has led the college with distinction over the past six years, building on a legacy of academic excellence, launching ambitious new strategic initiatives and enhancing our national and international profile,” Mark Herron, chair of the Scripps College Board of Trustees, said. “We know the Natural History Museum will benefit from her passion for education, science, and civic and community engagement, just as we have at Scripps College.”

During her tenure, Ms. Bettison-Varga advanced Scripps’ reputation as a superior liberal arts college and a leader in women’s education. Student applications increased 20 percent, resulting in a more selective admission process. The college launched an ambitious $175 million campaign, with $115 million raised to date for strategic priorities including scholarships, new facilities and the LASPA Center for women’s leadership development. Scripps has recorded a budget surplus each of the past six years, while the endowment per student has grown more than 15 percent.

The board of trustees has appointed Amy Marcus-Newhall, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, as interim president effective mid-October. Ms. Marcus-Newhall will work closely with the president to manage the transition until her departure.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve Scripps College for the past six years and to support its legacy of foundational coursework in interdisciplinary humanities, distinctive capstone senior research experience, and its commitment to the liberal arts in its mission to develop future generations of women leaders,” Ms. Bettison-Varga said in a letter to the Scripps Community.

Scripps is not the only Claremont college to lose its head administrator to a prestigious cultural institution. This past December, Laura Skandera Trombley resigned from her post as President of Pitzer College. Her departure represented a step up for Ms. Trombley; she had been named the president of The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. 

Ms. Trombley stayed on to complete the school year. On July1, Thomas Poon, Pitzer professor of chemistry and former associate dean of faculty, became interim president of the college. The outgoing president, Steven Koblik, is a former Pomona College professor and also served as dean of faculty at Scripps.

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