CH College president, Sister Carol Jean Vale, to retire next year

by Kate Dolan
Posted 2/10/21

After serving 30 years as the president of Chestnut Hill College, Sister Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D., will retire in June of 2022.

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CH College president, Sister Carol Jean Vale, to retire next year

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After serving 30 years as the president of Chestnut Hill College, Sister Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D., will retire in June of 2022.

“It has been the greatest honor of my life to lead a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Joseph and to serve at this extraordinary institution of higher education,” Vale said in her letter of resignation. “Chestnut Hill College is characterized by an uncommon excellence, both rare and remarkable.”

Since she was elected to the position in 1992, Vale has led the college through notable change and expansion vital to the college’s success, including the shift to coeducational enrollment.

Founded in 1924 as an all-woman’s liberal arts college, Chestnut Hill College fully transitioned to become a coeducational academic institution under Vale’s leadership, enrolling men in the four-year full-time undergraduate program. Prior to this, men were only admitted to the school’s continuing educational program since 1972 and its School of Graduate Studies, established in 1980.

“The decision to go coed was foundational,” said Catherine Lockyer Moulton,’92, chair of the college’s Board of Directors, quoted in a February 1 press release from the college which announced the retirement. “Quite literally, the survival of the college was at stake.”

The college grew from there, as enrollment increased and drastically bulked up the student base. Expansion followed, including the purchase of the former Sugarloaf Estate in 2006, adding 32 acres to the existing campus. The Sugarloaf Hill Campus on Germantown Avenue now provides student lodging and hosts academic and social events. Over Vale’s time, Martino Hall, Sorgenti Arena, Fitzsimmons Hall and the new Gulati Fitness Center were also constructed to accommodate the school’s growth.

Vale oversaw the reclassification of the school’s athletic teams, moving from NCAA Division III to NCAA Division II, as well as the addition of 11 sports teams.

Throughout Vale’s tenure, academic programs were added to the roster at the college, including the school’s first doctoral program in clinical psychology. Undergraduates saw their academic options broaden as disciplines were added, including majors in exercise science, health sciences, forensic biology and chemistry, environmental science, media and communications, and cyber security.

For non-traditional students, such as working professionals, Vale expanded the School of Continuing and Professional Studies to include the Accelerated Adult Degree Program. The full-time 8-week program, designed with night courses and an online/in-person hybrid approach, supports adult learners by fulfilling the full time financial aid requirement and accommodating flexible schedules.

Vale, who earned her undergraduate degree at CHC and first returned as the chair of the Religious Studies Department in 1988, helped raise millions of dollars for scholarships and created an academic and social environment that attracted students from diverse backgrounds. In her resignation letter, Vale acknowledged and thanked everyone in the college community for their contributions.

“Dramatic and lasting changes have occurred over the last three decades, and the college is better for them,” said Vale.

Vale studied as a Presidential Scholar at Fordham University, earning a Master’s in theology and a Ph.D. in historical theology. She serves on the Board and Executive Committee of the 200-member Association for Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU). She is a founding member of the Presidents’ Council for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education (SEPCHE) and co-founded and served as Board Chair of the African Sisters Educational Collaborative, an organization which has provided learning opportunities to communities in numerous African countries over the past two decades.

“Sister Carol has been a lioness for the college, and she is a great example of leadership for women,” said Moulton. “She leads with an open heart and a dedication to inclusion. She is brilliant and determined, and she makes you want to be a part of the journey with her.”

The Sisters of Saint Joseph and the college’s Board of the Directors will partner in a national search for Vale’s successor.

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