Dr. Robin Holmes-Sullivan Named 26th President of Lewis & Clark

In January, Lewis & Clark announced the historic appointment of Dr. Robin Holmes-Sullivan, the first woman and the first person of color to serve as president of the college in its 155-year history.
  • Dr. Robin Holmes-Sullivan
    Nina Johnson

In January, Lewis & Clark announced the historic appointment of Dr. Robin Holmes-Sullivan, the first woman and the first person of color to serve as president of the college in its 155-year history. The selection of Holmes-Sullivan followed a rigorous nationwide search that attracted more than 100 applicants.

A respected higher education leader with three decades of experience at universities and colleges in Oregon and California, Holmes-Sullivan will assume the presidency in July 2022, following the retirement of President Wim Wiewel. Holmes-Sullivan is currently the vice president for student life and dean of students at Lewis & Clark and has been credited for her creative leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Robin rose immediately to the top of an impressive field of candidates,” said Stephanie Fowler, chair of Lewis & Clark’s Board of Trustees. “Through her management of campus crises large and small, Robin has proven herself to be a natural leader who knows how to bring people together to get things done, even in the most challenging circumstances.”

Holmes-Sullivan enjoyed “significant support” from the faculties of all three schools and was the favored candidate of all three academic deans and President Wim Wiewel, Fowler said.

“In these tumultuous times, especially in regard to student issues, I can’t think of a more levelheaded and experienced leader than Robin,” Wiewel said. “I look forward to working closely with her in the months ahead to make this a very smooth and successful transition.”

“I am so proud that my becoming president of Lewis & Clark can influence and inspire a generation of young people to see that they can dream big.”

—Dr. Robin Holmes-Sullivan, Incoming President of Lewis & Clark

Upon the announcement, Holmes-Sullivan expressed her gratitude to the board and the Lewis & Clark community for their faith in her. She said being selected as president is the logical next step in a career dedicated to helping students realize their full potential.

“I am so proud that my becoming president of Lewis & Clark can influence and inspire a generation of young people to see that they can dream big; that when they speak, people will listen; and that when they lead, people will follow,” she said.

Holmes-Sullivan told members of the campus community that she looks forward to working collaboratively with all of them, saying her own experience as a Black woman has shown her the importance of “having a diversity of voices at the table in order to influence and build a sense of inclusion, community, and excellence.”

Holmes-Sullivan came to Lewis & Clark in 2019 from the University of California, where she served as vice president for student affairs overseeing the undergraduate admissions process and other student-related issues for the 10-campus, 200,000-student system. Prior to her time at the University of California, she spent 27 years at the University of Oregon, working her way up from a position as a clinical coordinator in the counseling center to vice president of student life.

While at UC, Holmes-Sullivan worked closely with UC President Janet Napolitano, former governor of Arizona and U.S. secretary of homeland security under President Barack Obama. Napolitano praised Holmes-Sullivan’s contributions to the UC system and called her “an excellent choice” to be the next president of Lewis & Clark.

“Robin possesses the leadership, vision, and personal qualities that one wants in a college leader,” Napolitano said. “I can’t think of a better selection.”

Holmes-Sullivan credits her father and mother, who worked their way up from entry-level jobs to management positions as a Marine and a health care worker, with instilling in her a lifelong commitment to honesty, integrity, hard work, and care and compassion for others. “Those values will continue to be my north star as your president,” she told Lewis & Clark community members.

Holmes-Sullivan earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University at Fullerton in 1986. She received a master’s degree in experimental psychology from California State University at Fullerton in 1990, and a second master’s in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology that same year. She earned her PhD in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology two years later in 1992.

Robin and her wife, Kathy, have two grown sons, a daughter-in-law, and a grandchild.

Watch for the fall issue of the L&C magazine, which will include a feature story about Holmes-Sullivan.