As Laura Skandera Trombley steps into her office today as the new president of The Huntington, she surely must feel that her arrival is a homecoming of sorts. Trombley often visited the gardens as a child with her mother, walking among the roses and being awed by the beauty of the grounds. Years later, as a budding Mark Twain scholar, she did research in the Library’s Twain papers that would culminate in her first book, Mark Twain in the Company of Women (1994). More recently, she returned to use the collections to complete her fifth book, Mark Twain’s Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years (2010).
“The Huntington is a place I know well,” she says, “and it has been a constant part of my personal and scholarly life.”
Taking the helm as the eighth president of The Huntington, Trombley is the first woman to lead the institution. Her lifelong affinity for the place is just one of the reasons why anyone who shares her love of The Huntington should be excited about the passion she brings to the job.
She also brings a great deal of experience. Trombley comes to The Huntington after 13 years as president of Pitzer College in Claremont, where she is widely credited with dramatically improving the college’s standing in higher education. Under her leadership, the college completed three successful fundraising campaigns, raising more than $110 million and increasing Pitzer’s endowment more than 200 percent. The college’s U.S. News & World Report ranking among liberal arts colleges improved 50 percent during her tenure, moving from 70th to 35th in the nation, a feat unmatched in higher education.
At The Huntington, Trombley’s solid leadership skills, coupled with a strong vision for how to build on The Huntington’s substantial strengths, will help propel the institution into the future. She inherits from her predecessor, Steven Koblik, a robust institution with a solid financial foundation, growing collections, and a wide-ranging schedule of programmatic activities.
As an outspoken booster of the humanities in an increasingly tech-centered society, Trombley has said that one of her goals as president is to use The Huntington as a platform for advancing the conversation about the fundamental importance of humanities education. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times last December, following the announcement of her appointment, Trombley remarked: “The humanities increasingly are treated as marginal to whatever the center is. My job is to make people understand that every time they appreciate a photograph or picture or question the meaning of their life or have goose bumps because of a favorite play or song or movie, that’s the humanities.”
And that job starts today. As Trombley says in her inaugural President’s Message: “The Huntington is on the move, and I am thrilled to be a part of the journey. Here we go!”
You can read more about President Trombley on The Huntington’s website.
Lisa Blackburn is communications coordinator for the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.