Meet the new President of Whittier College

Austin Hall

After a highly competitive national search process, Whittier College’s Presidential Search Committee has appointed Linda Oubré to succeed current President Sharon Herzberger at the end of the 2017-18 school year. 

Oubré will be the first woman of color to serve as President of Whittier College, as well as the third consecutive woman to lead the school. Oubré was chosen for her extensive experience in leadership positions, her involvement in numerous lucrative business ventures, and her focus on diversity. Oubré has experience working in both business and education. Oubré is currently Dean of San Francisco State University’s College of Business. Before that, she held numerous positions on the board of Harvard Business School, after earning her Masters of Business Administration from the same institution. 

A native of Los Angeles, Oubré earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1980, followed by her MBA from Harvard four years later. She started her career with managerial roles at Walt Disney Co. and the Los Angeles Times. After co-founding SmileBrite, a teeth whitening service, Oubré’s interest in managing venture capital pursuits led her to start her own firm in 2003. After eight years of consulting, Oubré moved to the Bay Area with her husband and kids where she took a managerial role at University of California (UC), Davis. She eventually became UC Davis’s first Chief Diversity Officer.

The Presidential Search Committee had a wide range of applicants to choose from. With the help of Irvine-based consulting firm Witt/Kieffer, the committee created the Leadership Profile, a specific job description and list of recommendations for the College’s next president. “We received more than 100 applicants with a rich and diverse range of backgrounds and experience,” said Chair of Whittier College’s Board of Trustees Jim Brown. According to Brown, President-Elect Oubré was a standout candidate among those recommended by the Leadership Profile. “She has a set of life experiences in both higher education and industry that, when combined with a creative, thoughtful, analytical, and humble personality, are just primed to help propel the College forward,” said Brown. “Her qualifications and background reflect Whittier’s mission and values.” 

Since the College’s founding in 1887, its Quaker-based value system that prioritizes equality has helped make Whittier College one of the most racially diverse liberal arts colleges in the nation. President Herzberger said, “Our founding, by Quakers, gave us this amazing mission of helping students learn about people of all cultures, all religions. [Oubré’s new role] is consistent with Whittier’s founding and Whittier’s history.”

President Sharon Herzberger announced her impending retirement last June, after having held the position for 13 years. While fond of her time spent as president, Herzberger welcomes fresh perspectives and new ideas into Whittier College. To President Herzberger, there are three main issues that could use a set of “fresh eyes:” affordability, residentiality, and curriculum. 

“Are we satisfying our students?” asked President Herzberger, rhetorically. “There’s the whole question about college affordability. College students today are much more diverse in terms of their background and their financial position.” Herzberger also mentioned she feels the need to rethink Whittier’s residential policies that mandated for students to remain on campus for three years before being given the option to move into non-school-affiliated housing.

“We believed that living on campus made a big difference to the person’s education,” said President Herzberger. “Going forward, we need to rethink what we gain from a residential experience that we can’t substitute in another way.” According to President Herzberger, these are all issues that Oubré will be responsible for taking care of and improving upon as president. President Herzberger believes that Whittier College will greatly benefit from “someone with outside experience who can look at what we’re doing and know how we might be able to do it better while keeping down the cost.” President Herzberger officially retires on June 30, 2018. 

As President-Elect Linda Oubré prepares to take on her new role on July 1, 2018, the rest of Whittier College is looking forward to welcoming her into the 2018-19 school year.