Valerie Smith

President, Swarthmore College

Valerie Smith, a distinguished scholar of African American literature and culture and former Dean of the College at Princeton University, was named the 15th president of Swarthmore College on Saturday, Feb., 21, 2015, following unanimous agreement by its Board of Managers.

As dean at Princeton, Smith was the senior officer responsible for Princeton’s undergraduate academic program, including all aspects of the curriculum, undergraduate research, the residential college system, and other areas designed to promote the intellectual development of undergraduates, including study abroad and fellowships. She has also overseen the admission and financial aid offices, among others. Perhaps most significantly, Smith recently chaired a committee that studied the academic and cultural experience of low-income and first-generation students at Princeton; the committee’s recommendations are currently being implemented and have captured the imagination of alumni and others.

Smith received her B.A. cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Bates College and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. She is the author of more than 40 articles and three books on African American literature, culture, film, and photography and is the editor or co-editorof seven volumes. Her most recent publications include Toni Morrison: Writing the Moral Imagination; The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, third edition, edited with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; and Race and Real Estate, edited with Adrienne Brown (forthcoming from Oxford University Press). At Swarthmore, she will hold tenured appointments in English Literature and Black Studies.

Smith’s numerous awards include fellowships from the Alphonse G. Fletcher Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Princeton’s President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching. She serves on the boards of Bates College, the N.J. Council for the Humanities, and McCarter Theater Center, as well as the editorial boards of Women’s Studies Quarterly, Criticism, and African American Review, among others.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Smith comes from a family of educators. Her father, W. Reeves Smith, is a retired professor of biology at Long Island University, Brooklyn, and her mother, Josephine Smith, is a retired teacher in the New York City public school system.