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Farewell Message from President Carol A. Leary

As I reflect on my inauguration address from 1995, I am struck by how relevant the message is even today. Time can certainly pass in the blink of an eye. In the last several months, I have said often, “Where did 25 years go?”

I can still remember the day Noel and I traveled from Boston to Longmeadow to visit the campus. We drove through the town of Longmeadow, and as we turned down the main driveway, we had a reaction much like that of so many of our students. We fell in love immediately with Bay Path. Over the subsequent days and months, I met so many wonderful people— students, faculty, staff, trustees, alumni, and guests— who shared with me their commitment and dedication to this institution. On every level, I saw the tremendous potential at Bay Path for great things.

From the beginning, the entire Bay Path community, as well as leaders in the region, welcomed me graciously and enthusiastically. The kindness and hospitality shown
by so many people made our transition to our new home effortless. Quickly, Noel and I knew we were part of a very special place.

This belief was reaffirmed every time I entered Deepwood Hall. As I passed through the gateway of impressive white columns that flank the main door, I was reminded that I was entrusted with the stewardship of the history and legacy of Bay Path…a legacy that includes our distinguished past presidents and thousands of alumni who proudly called Bay Path their alma mater.

Often, I am asked how during my tenure Bay Path reinvented itself and grew from almost 500 to more than 3,300 students. I can point to many reasons, and, indeed, I have written and discussed our menu for success. Yet, in my mind, there is one factor that rises above all others: the people. Throughout this incredible journey of my presidency, trustees, alumni, faculty, staff, and countless others have worked tirelessly, given generously, and supported this beloved university unreservedly. I wish
I could say “thank you” to each one of you, but know the depths of my appreciation and gratitude are limitless.

I take special pride in the impact Bay Path has had on higher education. In 1999, when the One-Day-A-Week Saturday program was launched, no one could have imagined that adult women would enroll in an accelerated, flexible program held all day long on Saturdays, virtually year-round. We proved the naysayers wrong, and students came to Bay Path by the hundreds and graduated by the thousands. Then, our niche graduate programs were introduced, such as the MS in Communications and Information Management, the MBA in Entrepreneurial Thinking and Innovative Practices, and the MS in Nonprofit Management, among others. A range of health science programs, including the Master of Occupational Therapy and the MS in Physician Assistant Studies, and the Occupational Therapy Doctorate, our first doctoral program, also became part of the Graduate School and found a new home in the incredible Ryan Health Science Center. To date, we have over 70 undergraduate majors and concentrations and over 40 master’s and doctoral programs. We have never stopped moving.

At Bay Path, we also recognized early on that higher education needed to shift to provide access to millions of people, particularly women, in America. Throughout my tenure, I never wavered from our mission as a women and career-oriented higher education institution. It made us distinctive. It was that belief, coupled with a vision for online learning, that would lead to the development of The American Women’s College (TAWC) in 2013. The Social Online Universal Learning (SOUL) platform that is the engine for the TAWC model has put Bay Path in the forefront of online learning, earning national accolades. Today, as we see higher education dramatically working to come to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic, our early efforts to enter the online space, first with graduate and then undergraduate education, have made us stronger and more resilient to meet the future.

As I leave, I also take with me a treasure trove of memories: Board retreats, State of the University Addresses, community luncheons, alumni receptions and reunions that had an equal dose of laughter and tears, Capitals of the World Trips with “aha” and “wow” moments with students, faculty, staff, and alumni, Women’s Leadership Conferences that uplifted our spirits, and graduations that proved that dreams really can come true. There is so much more. For my husband, Noel, and me, these experiences will last a lifetime. For almost five decades, Noel has truly been my partner in this life journey. Our relationship has been built on the qualities of respect, honesty, and trust. With him by my side, I felt we could accomplish anything. He was there to cheer me on and to lift me up when times were challenging. I am so blessed to have him as my husband, sounding board, and my true and lasting love. When the Board of Trustees surprised me with a celebration of my retirement at its May 18, 2020, meeting—all virtual, of course—I was especially honored and thrilled that the Board chose to award Noel an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. Now he, too, will truly be part of Bay Path’s history.

I am humbled and proud to have served as your president. As a young woman, I would never have imagined that I would have this opportunity to help influence and affect the lives of so many people and to create an environment for our students, faculty, and staff to channel their special talents and dreams to help change the course of Bay Path and higher education. When the moment came to lead and serve Bay Path, I followed a course so reflective of our motto, “Seize the Day.” This is my wish for you—may you always seize the day.

Carpe Diem!