The woman of the afternoon wore rainbow-colored socks that offset the formality of the robes she, her fellow AUSB officials and the dignitaries wore for the event, held at the Fleischmann Auditorium of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
“My path to stand here today has been similar to the one-third of women who served as chief academic officers before becoming president,” Leffert said during her inaugural speech.
“Ultimately, people produce any organization’s legacy and in our case, the Antioch legacy continues to inspire and I am among those inspired by it.”
Present to give their official congratulations were Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara; Santa Barbara County Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf; Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider; and Sharon Siegel, district director for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara. Also speaking at the ceremony were SBCC President Andreea Serban and Leffert’s husband, Dr. Mark Leffert.
“The last time I saw her CV, it was 14 pages long,” Mark Leffert said.
An accomplished psychologist with a specialty in adolescent development, Leffert got her doctorate degree at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, where she also conducted major research.
After the Lefferts, both California natives, moved back to the state to live in the Santa Barbara area, Leffert took a position at Fielding Graduate University.
“We ‘stole’ her from Fielding Graduate University’,” quipped Antioch University Chancellor Tullisse “Toni” Murdock.
Leffert accepted her new position as Antioch’s provost, and only a few months later, as interim president. Then, in a unanimous decision by the Antioch University Santa Barbara Board of Trustees, she was selected the university’s president.
By all accounts, the events since her start at Antioch have been a “whirlwind,” and it seems that things will still be moving at a brisk pace. Until recently, the school’s Santa Barbara campus was simply a branch of the larger entity based in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
Now, the Santa Barbara campus has become recognized as an institution unto itself and has found a permanent place at the corner of Anacapa and Cota streets, with the help of the Hutton Parker Foundation.
With a new and permanent home, AUSB will be better able to provide its students with the liberal arts-based and experiential education for which the school is known, Leffert said. Students will have space and the technology to take advantage of their Antioch educations, she added.
“I believe that this opportunity — this collaboration — is a reflection of our campus’ progression into new maturity, with a 30-year reputation and more than 3,500 passionate alumni,” she said.
Leffert’s inauguration ceremony is only the first in a month-long celebration of the university’s new president. Other events include an address by Karen Cator, President Barack Obama’s director of the Office of Educational Technology, and the debut of an exhibition of images of the Mbuti people in Africa’s Congo region.
A series of documentaries highlighting conflict and social justice issues around the globe will be presented as well.