Saint Martin’s welcomes new provost and vice president for academic affairs

July 19, 2013

Lacey, Washington – Roy F. Heynderickx, Ph.D., president of Saint Martin’s University, has announced the appointment of Molly Smith, Ph.D., as the University’s new provost and vice president for academic affairs. The announcement came this morning following the formal approval of Smith by the Saint Martin’s board of trustees. Smith, who comes to Saint Martin’s after serving as an independent consultant on higher education and education-related issues, will assume the post Aug. 1.

Doctor Smith

“Dr. Smith impressed us with her leadership, vision and passion,” said Heynderickx. “She understands both the complex challenges of higher education in general and the great potential for new initiatives here at Saint Martin’s. Moreover, Dr. Smith recognizes the importance of our heritage and our values as a Benedictine institution. We are eager to welcome her to the Saint Martin’s community.”

The new provost, who calls herself a “passionate advocate for the transformative power of education and access to education,” has lectured widely about women’s leadership, higher education, the liberal arts and global learning.

“I am honored to have been selected for this role that stands at the nexus of teaching, learning and research,” Smith said. “Saint Martin’s University has a compelling mission whose force is as vitally important today — to Lacey, Olympia, Washington and our nation — as it was when Saint Martin’s was founded in 1895. I look forward to working with President Heynderickx and the community to advance this mission and realize our collective aspirations. I am also looking forward to living in beautiful Lacey-Olympia area.”

Smith is a member of the board of trustees of Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey and is on the executive committee of the International Association of University Presidents, where she leads an initiative to develop women as academic leaders globally. She also serves the association as a representative to the United Nations.

As a higher education administrator, Smith most recently served as president of Manhattanville College in New York. Prior to that time, she was provost of Wheaton College, and earlier, dean of Seton Hall University’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Smith earned her doctorate in Shakespeare and Renaissance drama from Auburn University, and has held tenured faculty posts at Saint Louis University and the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. She has written two books and several articles on Shakespeare, his contemporaries and Renaissance drama.

Born in Chennai, India, Smith earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees in English literature from Madras Christian College, University of Madras. She attributes her commitment to education to the influence of several women in her family: her grandmother, whose education ceased when she married at the age of 12; her mother, who longed to attend college but had to work instead from the age of 16; and her godmother, who was a professor of English in Madras, having fought against many odds to ensure her own education and independence.

Smith is married to Duane Howard Smith, who is also an academic. They have one son and one grandson. She enjoys writing short stories based on her life in India.

Smith replaces Joseph Bessie, Ph.D., who left Saint Martin’s University in the spring to become the provost and vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Saint Martin’s University is an independent four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 23 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes more than 1,100 undergraduate students and 400 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 300 more undergraduate students to its extension campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Centralia College. Visit the Saint Martin’s University website at

Jennifer Fellinger
Vice President for Marketing and Communications
Saint Martin’s University