Connecticut woman to lead Slippery Rock University

Starting June 4 she will replace retired Robert M. Smith


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For Cheryl Joy Norton, 11:44 a.m. is now a highly memorable moment -- and not simply because that was the time on Thursday that she learned she had been hired as Slippery Rock University's new president.

At nearly the same instant, another message reaching her cell phone brought joyous news of a completely different sort: Her second grandchild had been born.

"Our son had sent a picture of the baby, and I kept pressing download, and when I changed to email, I saw that I had this call that had just come in," she said.

That call was confirmation that the State System of Higher Education's Board of Governors had chosen her from a national search to lead the university of nearly 9,000 students.

Ms. Norton, 63, a senior fellow with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in Washington, D.C., was formerly the president of Southern Connecticut State University.

At Slippery Rock, she succeeds Robert M. Smith, who retired in February.

She will have no shortage of pressure once she starts her duties June 4.

Slippery Rock and the other 13 universities in the State System face a 20 percent state appropriation cut in Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed 2012-13 commonwealth budget.

Faculty there and across the State System have been without a contract since June.

And the poor economy continues to influence where students choose to enroll, raising the stakes in any decision to raise fees or tuition, no matter how strained campus finances become.

Ms. Norton, though, said Slippery Rock has a sound foundation and is heading in the right direction.

"It won't be the first time in higher education around the country that there have been budget cuts," she said. "It's an unfortunate situation, but it's the reality."

She praised, among other attributes, the opportunity and access Slippery Rock offers as a public institution and its focus on teaching and learning and on helping students develop leadership skills. She said the school's faculty are distinguished.

"I couldn't be more excited," she said in a phone interview from her Madison, Conn., home. "I look forward to becoming part of the academic community."

Ms. Norton's salary will be $225,000, according to the State System. She will live in the president's residence and, like other campus presidents, is eligible for a vehicle lease allowance of up to $650 a month.

She became Southern Connecticut State's first woman president in 2004 and served for six years. Afterward, she completed a one-year sabbatical

A suburban Cleveland native, she has a bachelor's degree in physical education and recreation from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, according to the State System. An announcement of her selection listed three degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York: a Master of Arts in applied physiology and both a Master of Education and a Doctor of Education in applied physiology.

Starting in 1976, she worked at the Metropolitan State College of Denver in the department of human performance, sport and leisure studies and later became a tenured professor. She was named department chair in 1992, interim associate dean of the School of Professional Studies in 1996 and provost and vice president for academic affairs in 1997, the State System said.

She and her husband, Henry, have two grown children.

Her selection was announced as the State System also named Marcia G. Welsh, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Towson University, as East Stroudsburg University's new president, effective July 1.

"Dr. Welsh and Dr. Norton both have outstanding credentials and excellent records as academic leaders," said board of governors chairman Guido M. Pichini.

education - region

Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977.


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