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Presidential Search Update and Announcement of Interim President

Dear Emerson Community,

We are writing to share an update on the search process for the next President of Emerson College.  

Since our last communication, the Presidential Search Committee, together with our search consultant, StorbeckSearch, has made significant progress toward recruiting, identifying, and interviewing candidates for our next president, who will build upon the growth and success of Emerson’s academic leadership position and continue its current rise. The College’s outstanding reputation as a global hub for communication, the arts, and the liberal arts in higher education has fueled interest in the position from a strong group of candidates.

While our hope was to identify our next president by the end of this academic year, our top priority has always been to find the right person to lead, inspire, and unify this extraordinary and diverse community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni—and the Search Committee remains steadfast in this pursuit.

As we continue our search for President Pelton’s successor, and as Emerson emerges, stronger than ever, from one of the most challenging times in our 141-year-long history marked by a global pandemic, the Board of Trustees remains committed to providing strategic leadership, stability and support to maintain the College’s institutional health during the transition.

We are pleased to announce that Dr. William (Bill) Gilligan, Professor Emeritus, has agreed to return to Emerson as Interim President of Emerson College, effective June 1, 2021.

As many of you know, Dr. Gilligan began his career at Emerson more than 36 years ago as an Assistant Professor in 1984, and most recently served as Vice President of Information Technology before retiring in December 2020.

Dr. Gilligan is a trusted and well-respected colleague across the Emerson community, recognized for his commitment to the College, and for his strong sense of fairness, humor, collegiality, problem-solving, and sound judgement. Dr. Gilligan will work closely with the President’s Council and the Board of Trustees to lead the College during this interim period.

Among his many achievements during his tenure, Dr. Gilligan facilitated the President’s Campus Task Force on Diversity in 2008; worked closely with other senior administrators, architectural firm Elkus Manfredi, engineers and technology vendors to design, build and equip two professional-quality television studios in the new Tufte Performance and Production Center; as well as collaborated with technology vendors to design, build, and equip professional-quality Journalism facilities.

Dr. Gilligan earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Boston College, a Master of Science in Teaching from the University of New Hampshire, and a Doctor of Education degree in Mathematics from Boston University. He was Treasurer of the ECC-AAUP union chapter from 1985-1987, a member of the Faculty Council for many years and chair of Faculty Assembly from 1992-1994, as well as the Faculty Athletics Representative to the NCAA on multiple occasions (1991-1994, 2005-2007).

The Presidential Search Committee will move forward with its work and we will continue to share significant updates via email and on Emerson’s website at

Please join us in welcoming Bill back to Emerson as Interim President.

Michael MacWade, MA ’84
Treasurer, Board of Trustees
Chair, Presidential Search Committee

Jeffrey Greenhawt ’68
Chair, Board of Trustees

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