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President Carol A. Leary Milestones: A Visual History

Milestones capturing just some of the 25-year legacy of President Carol A. Leary.

President Carol A. Leary Milestones: Transforming Bay Path University


These three words capture the essence of the remarkable growth and transformation of Bay Path throughout the 25 years of Carol Leary’s presidency. During her tenure, an unprecedented number of institutional improvements and initiatives, such as strengthening academic offerings, enhancing the student experience, investing in capital projects, establishing ties with the greater community, and cultivating new partnerships, touched every aspect of campus life.

With each passing year, Carol Leary built an institution of higher education that dared to challenge the norms of an industry bound by tradition. Her steps were bold and courageous. Always keeping students at the center of decisions, she placed Bay Path firmly at the forefront of new academic models by offering accelerated and flexible pathways for learning, both on ground and online. Ever mindful that many of our students were the first in their family to attend college or aspire to greater things, she created a place where students were prepared for emerging careers and the constantly changing workplace. And ever true to the mission of Bay Path, she proved that a women’s college could flourish and still have value in today’s world. She made Bay Path a place of pride for alumni, students, faculty, staff, and others.

Indeed, President Carol Leary forged a University for the 21st century.

Dr. Carol A. Leary, with her husband, Noel, by her side, is inaugurated as Bay Path’s fifth president on Saturday, April 22, 1995.


Bay Path’s first Women’s Leadership Conference, entitled “New Ways of Doing Business: Conversations with Women of Influence,” is held in Springfield, MA on March 29, 1996, and attended by over 800 attendees. The keynote speaker is Elizabeth Dole, former U.S. Labor and Transportation Secretary and senator from the state of North Carolina, and past president of the Red Cross.

Photo of Elizabeth Dole, Carol Leary, and Caron Hobin at Bay Path's first Women's Leadership Conference.
From left: Caron Hobin, Vice President for Strategic Alliances and the creative spirit and coordinator of the WLC for 25 years; Elizabeth Dole; and President Carol Leary.

The first Capitals of the World Trip embarks to Rome, Italy. Over the years, hundreds of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends will accompany President Leary and her husband, Noel, to cities around the globe, including Paris, Dublin, Madrid, London, Athens, Berlin, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Prague, Vienna, and Beijing.

Photo of participants in Bay Path University's Capital of the World trip with a castle in the background
While broadening their perspectives on the culture and history of unique cities, Capitals of the World introduced hundreds of students to the joys of traveling abroad and instilled in them a newfound appreciation as citizens of the world.



Bay Path celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1897. Professor Emerita Muriel Mitchell pens the definitive 100-year history of Bay Path, and in recognition of the themes of Vision 2001, three Americans of distinction are recognized: U.S. Congresswoman Lindy Boggs for leadership, engineer and NASA astronaut Mae Jemison for technology, and co-founder of the Harvard Negotiation Project, Roger Fisher, for communications.


Margaret Thatcher, the first woman prime minister of Great Britain, delivers a lecture at Springfield Symphony Hall, arranged and sponsored by Bay Path.

Photo of Lady Margaret Thatcher and Carol Leary
It was a once-in-a-lifetime event when former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher came to Springfield. Alumna Racquel Labrie Fisher ’00 chats with Prime Minister Thatcher, and later, President Leary had a moment to relax with the prime minister.


The One-Day-A-Week Saturday College, an accelerated degree program for adult women, is launched on the Longmeadow campus. The first class of almost 100 students begins in October of that year.

It is a proud moment for Dr. Leary and the University when the first class of One Day women, known as “The Pioneers,” earn their college degrees.


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts authorizes Bay Path to grant graduate degrees. The Master of Science in Communications and Information Management (CIM) is approved by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education in June, and the first class begins in October.

Students in the first CIM class work on a project in the MassMutual MultiMedia Lab in D’Amour Hall.


D’Amour Hall for Business, Communications and Technology opens with state-of-the-art technology classrooms.

Photo of President Leary joins Big Y co-founder Gerald D’Amour and Jeanne D’Amour ’40, a former Bay Path Trustee, at the ribbon cutting.
President Leary joins Big Y co-founder Gerald D’Amour and Jeanne D’Amour ’40, a former Bay Path Trustee, at the ribbon-cutting.

On Saturday, October 21, 2000, the Blake Student Commons is dedicated to longtime supporters and friends of Bay Path, S. Prestley and Helen Blake.

Photo of Dr. Leary with S. Prestley and Helen Blake
From left: President Leary; cofounder of Friendly’s Ice Cream and Bay Path Trustee Emeritus S. Prestley Blake; and Helen Blake.

photo of Blake Student Commons with balloon release during dedication
Hundreds attend the grand opening and
dedication of the Blake Student Commons.
It quickly becomes the center point and gathering place for the Bay Path Community.
The newly renovated Breck Fitness Center is also dedicated, funded by the generosity of M. Constance Breck ’30 of the Breck & Co. family.


The Central Massachusetts Campus is established in Southbridge/ Charlton, offering the One-Day-A-Week Saturday College. Eventually, graduate programs are made available through this satellite location.

The President’s Innovative Thinking and Entrepreneurship Lecture Series is founded, emphasizing leadership, results, and the process of innovation. Over the years, guest speakers include Tom Stemberg, co-founder of Staples, Inc.; Sue Morelli, CEO and president of Au Bon Pain; and Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, among others.


The Eastern Mass Center is established in Burlington, MA, to accommodate the growing popularity of the One-Day-A-Week Saturday College. By 2007, over 800 students are enrolled across all Bay Path locations in the program. Today, the Eastern Mass Center is located in Concord, MA, offering graduate programs in education and psychology for women and men.


The Women as Empowered Learners and Leaders (WELL) program is launched within the curriculum and becomes Bay Path’s signature leadership initiative tailored for traditional and adult women.


In June 2012, Bay Path welcomes the inaugural class of MS in Physician Assistant Studies.

In October 2012, Bay Path University receives a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education as part of its Title III: Strengthening Institutions Grant initiative for “The Learners and Leaders” project.

There is excitement and joy in the air as the Title III grant is announced. The grant will be a major step in redefining the curriculum and how teaching and learning are delivered to students. Pictured from left: Dr. Melissa Morriss-Olson, provost; U.S. Congressman Richard Neal; and President Leary


The American Women’s College (TAWC), the first all-women, all online bachelor’s degree program in the country, is officially launched in 2013.

Located in Springfield, MA, TAWC’s goal is olympian: to provide an opportunity for millions of women in America to earn their bachelor’s degree through the revolutionary Social Online Universal Learning (SOUL) platform. In 2014, SOUL is one of only 24 institutions in the U.S. to receive a FIPSE (Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education) "First in the World" grant for $3.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education. 

The American Women’s College enrolls women throughout the United States. It is a reflection of the New America – as of 2019, 42% are from diverse backgrounds, and 47% are first-generation students.


The College secures approvals from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) for the transition to university status. Bay Path faculty, staff, and students welcome July 1, 2014, as the official first day as a University, and as the first women’s university in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

“It’s All About U” is the theme for the transition campaign. President Leary is pictured here at this momentous occasion with faculty, staff, and students.


With the full commitment of the Board of Trustees, a campus-wide Diversity and Inclusion initiative is created, promoting a culture of respect, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Almanac of Higher Education 2015 lists Bay Path as one of the top 20 fastest-growing private baccalaureate institutions (rank #8) in the United States.

The 58,000-square-foot Philip H. Ryan Health Science Center is dedicated in January 2015. It is the first free-standing academic facility built by Bay Path since 1963 and includes state-of-the-art laboratories, classrooms, and study areas while allowing for future academic program expansion. Developed to be a “total campus experience,” the 11-acre site features labs, a full-scale model apartment, extensive Wi-Fi throughout the complex, a resource room, wellness room, self-service kitchen and café, a hi-tech building security system, and ample parking.

Bay Path celebrates the opening of the Ryan Health Science Center, making it possible for the University to expand current and create new academic programs in the School of Education, Human & Health Sciences. Pictured above, to President Leary’s right, is Phil Ryan, benefactor and former Trustee; to President Leary’s left is then Chair of the Board of Trustees George C. Keady III; and they are joined by students and members of the executive staff.


President Leary’s book Achieving the Dream: A How-to Guide for Adult Women Seeking a College Degree, a step-by-step guide for adult women returning to college, is published.

The Strategic Alliances division at Bay Path University is established to further diversify the ways in which the University serves lifelong learning by offering employers and employees customized leadership development programs online, in-person, or blended, as well as online professional certifications and re-certifications.


The first doctoral degree is offered by Bay Path, and the 100% online Occupational Therapy Doctorate program is launched.

It is a proud moment in the University’s history when the first graduates from the Occupational Therapy Doctorate program receives their degrees. They are pictured here with President Leary and Dr. Melissa Morriss-Olson, provost, to left of President Leary.

Bay Path University is on the leading edge for cybersecurity education at both the undergraduate and graduate level and one of the first in the country to launch an MS in Cybersecurity Management. In 2018, Bay Path’s cybersecurity programs received a $250,000 grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, one of three in the commonwealth, to improve and widen the pipeline to attract talent to the profession.

Bay Path presents its 5th annual Cybersecurity Summit, building on the University’s expertise in cybersecurity education and featuring President Leary as a panelist.


logo for the Department of EducationBay Path University, one of seven higher ed institutions in New England, is awarded a $2.25 million Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education through its Strengthening Institutions Program. The grant, “Learning for the 21st Century: Reshaping the Student Experience,” is designed to help higher education institutions expand their capacity to serve at-risk students by providing funds to improve and strengthen the institution’s academic quality, institutional management, and fiscal stability.

Bay Path University graduates the largest class in its history, with 1,050 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students receiving their degrees before a standing-room only crowd of over 5,000 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA.

Bay Path University is awarded a $1.6 million grant from the Strada Education Network for a three-year project titled “Closing the Gaps: Building Pathways for Adult Women in a Technology-Driven Workforce.” The grant is implemented through Bay Path’s American Women’s College to prepare adult women to enter the cybersecurity and information technology workforce.


The Board of Trustees, alumni, students, faculty, and staff recognize the contributions and 25-year legacy of President Carol A. Leary and, in her honor, rename Deepwood Hall to Leary Hall.

Artist rendering shown; dedication to be announced.

Image of Leary Hall

graphic representation of a quarter-century of progress at Bay Path University