Stephens College, the second-oldest women's college in the United States, announced today the retirement of President Dianne Lynch effective May 2025.

“Stephens College has truly been my life’s work,” Lynch told her community in announcing her plans.  “It has been a privilege beyond measure to be a member of this extraordinary, mission-driven community.”

Lynch will continue to serve as the President of Stephens during the coming year as it launches its strategic adoption of block scheduling, an innovative curriculum structure that will provide all students with the kinds of immersive learning that will best prepare them for careers in a world transformed by artificial intelligence.

“Under President Lynch’s leadership, Stephens College has flourished, embarking on numerous transformative initiatives that have enriched academic programs and significantly enhanced campus life,” said Stephens College Board Chair M. Anne Murphy. “President Lynch’s impact on Stephens College will be felt for generations to come. As we look to the future, we are committed to finding a leader who will carry forward the legacy of excellence that President Lynch has so passionately built.”

President Lynch is widely recognized for her dedication and open-door accessibility to students.  The College’s status as the pet-friendliest campus in the country, the constantly replenished supplies of chocolate and snacks in her office, and her mantra that she says yes first (and works her way back to no one step at a time) have helped to shape campus culture since her arrival in 2009.

A landmark achievement of President Lynch's career is securing the largest gift in Stephens College's 190-year history—a $2.5 million annual donation in perpetuity, effectively doubling the College's endowment.

Under her guidance, Stephens College has seen the establishment of the School for Health Sciences, featuring a fully accredited Masters of Physician Assistant (PA) school, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing through a joint partnership with Boone Hospital, and a pioneering Bachelor of Science in Animal Behavior. This interdisciplinary program integrates Equine Science, Health Science, and Psychology, reflecting the College's commitment to diverse and holistic education.  

President Lynch's tenure also marked the inauguration of a co-educational Conservatory for the Performing Arts, the launch of successful undergraduate programs in Communication Design and Business Administration, and a thriving Education program and Children’s School. The College has re-visioned its historic Equestrian program to focus on the equine industry and the emerging field of animal therapy.

Stephens has also continued its growth in graduate and continuing studies over the past 15 years.  Students in its hybrid Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting work with writing coaches/mentors online and convene for ten days each semester at Jim Henson Studios in Los Angeles for immersive sessions with industry professionals. Additionally, the Workforce Development program launching in 2024 offers comprehensive training in high-demand fields, providing participants with living wages, essential services, and guaranteed apprenticeships.

Significant campus renovations have been undertaken during her presidency, including the transformation of Sampson Hall into a cutting-edge medical facility for the PA program, the reimagining of the Okoboji Summer Theatre into an artist's village, and extensive refurbishments of Prunty, Searcy, and Hickman Halls.

Beyond her contributions to Stephens College, President Lynch has been an engaged community leader, serving on numerous boards, including the Missouri Symphony Society, United Way, and Boone Health.  In 2016, she received the Athena Award, one of the community’s most prestigious awards for leadership and service.  In 2020, the Columbia NAACP presented her the Distinguished Service Award.  Her tenure as president of the American Midwest Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and her leadership role at the Lillian Kopenhaver Center at Florida International University underscore her broad impact on local, regional and national audiences.

As President Lynch prepares for her retirement, Stephens College acknowledges her indelible legacy of innovation, community engagement, and educational excellence. Plans for commemorating her tenure and transitioning leadership will be shared in the coming months.


About Stephens College

Founded in 1833, Stephens College is the second-oldest women's college in the United States, dedicated to providing innovative, experiential, and career-focused education across various disciplines. Located in Columbia, Missouri, Stephens College continues to be a leader in women's education, fostering a community where students are empowered to lead, innovate, and excel.

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