Prof. Margaret McKenna (Heller) has been appointed as the new president of Suffolk University and will be leaving Brandeis in June to begin her role there.

Before coming to Brandeis in 2013 as a visiting professor and acting director of the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy, McKenna served as the vice president of Radcliffe College from 1981 to 1985 and the president of Lesley University from 1985 to 2007.

As acting director of the Sillerman Center at Brandeis, McKenna helped “[create] toolkits and guidelines in a variety of social justice areas to aid donors in making decisions on giving based on research,” according to a letter from McKenna on the Sillerman website. 

When asked why she chose to accept the position at Suffolk, McKenna said in an interview with the Justice that she’s “always admired the mission of Suffolk and the role it plays in Boston and in the state in particular.” 

According to McKenna, Suffolk University—which is located in downtown Boston—has “many graduates who are in the legislature, who are judges and who are leaders of the business community in Boston.”

“It’s played a significant role in the public policy debate in the city and the state, so it’s sort of the model of an urban university involved in its community,” she said. “People really care and love the university and that made a big difference to me.”

During her presidency at Suffolk, McKenna says she hopes to strengthen the collaborations between the university’s three schools (the law school, the business school and the school of arts and sciences) and create “even more significant partnerships with other colleges and universities, [as well as] with other nonprofits and businesses in the area.”  

McKenna will replace Suffolk’s interim president—Norman Smith—who had served since Sept. 2014 following the departure of president James McCarthy, according to a May 12, 2015 Boston Globe article. McKenna told the Globe that she will serve as an at-will employee, meaning that her continued employment is contingent on the Suffolk Board of Trustees’ opinion of her work. 

However, she has agreed to the board’s request for a five-year commitment, and while she did not disclose the amount of money she will be paid, she said that her salary had been negotiated “in principle.” McKenna was paid $635,000 in total compensation during her time at Lesley, according to the Globe. 

In the Globe article, McKenna discussed her plans to prioritize fundraising in an effort to shift the source of endowment from tuition revenue to donor money.  

McKenna told Suffolk faculty at a forum last week that her business philosophy is only to pursue the fields and areas where her school can either exceed competition or at least stay on par with it, according to the Globe. Though she closed the profitable business school during her time at Lesley, McKenna promised Suffolk faculty that she would not close any schools during her presidency. She said that the closure at Lesley was due to her philosophy, as Lesley’s business school was not able to compete with other business schools. After leaving the Lesley presidency, McKenna served as president of the Walmart Foundation, the nation’s largest corporate philanthropic organization. 

When asked what she was most excited about, McKenna said she looked forward to “being on a campus with huge potential integrated into the city and being around undergraduate students again, which I have always enjoyed.”

She also says she looks forward to “being thoroughly integrated into the life of a university, with all that it brings.”

Although McKenna will be leaving Brandeis, she stressed that she remains “an admirer of Brandeis’ social justice mission and the Heller school’s role.” She added, “In fact, one of the reasons I was so attracted to Suffolk is because it has a long history of access and social justice as well.”