ST. PAUL — Macalester College’s next president will be its first female and Latina leader.
Suzanne Rivera is vice president for research and technology management at the private Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Rivera checked all the boxes for the search committee and trustees, said Jerry Crawford, chair of Macalester’s Board of Trustees.
“We were looking for a bold, optimistic leader. She is very inspiring and a good communicator and storyteller,” he said.
Rivera, 50, is an expert in research ethics who continued to write and conduct research while serving as vice president for research.
She also serves in advocacy roles working against sexual harassment and discrimination based on gender and race.
Rivera holds a bachelor’s degree in American civilization from Brown University; a master of social welfare from the University of California – Berkeley; and a doctor of philosophy in public affairs from the University of Texas at Dallas.
She said in a profile last year for Case’s internal publication that as a child she benefited from welfare, food stamps and social workers, which is why she studied social welfare at Berkeley.
“I had — and still have — a deep sense of gratitude about the help we received, and I wanted to contribute to the well-being of others in similar circumstances,” she told The Daily.
Her short stature cements her image as an overachiever.
“She is 4 feet 11 inches tall and was the starting point guard on her high school basketball team. That tells me a little something about tenacity,” Crawford said.
Rivera will take over this summer for Brian Rosenberg, who announced last spring that he would leave at the end of May after 17 years.
“Brian Rosenberg has been extraordinary,” Crawford said. “You don’t try and replicate Mickey Mantle, you just try and find another all-star, and that’s what we think we’ve done with Sue.”
Rivera worked in research administration for the University of California, Irvine and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center before joining Case in 2011.
She is married to Michael Householder, assistant arts and science dean at Case. They have two adult children.
Crawford said he expects Householder will pursue work with some other Minnesota college but that has not been resolved.
Nothing in the leadership profile for the job said Macalester should hire for diversity, but Crawford considers it a bonus.
“Once we selected her based on her leadership abilities, the fact that she was female and the fact that she was Latinx, both of those were positives.”
Rivera is Macalester’s 17th president.
The University of Minnesota also found its first female president in 17 tries when it hired University of South Carolina Provost Joan Gabel in late 2018.