Biographical / Historical
Rebecca Chopp was the 14th President of Swarthmore College (2009-2014). She is a well-known scholar of religion and American culture. While at Swarthmore, Chopp researched changing structures and cultures of higher education, the role of liberal arts in a democratic society, and religion and higher education. She resigned from Swarthmore College in 2014 to become the 18th Chancellor of the University of Denver.
Chopp, a native of Kansas, received a B.A. from Kansas Wesleyan University, an M.Div. from St. Paul School of Theology, and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. She also holds honorary doctorates in divinity from Lehigh University and Lafayette College. In addition to more than 50 published articles, Chopp wrote or edited five books before coming to Swarthmore, primarily concentrating on the intersections of feminist theory and theology.
From 1982, Chopp briefly worked as Assistant Professor of Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Next, she accepted a posting at Emory University, continuing there for the next 15 years in a variety of faculty and administrative positions culminating as Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. In 2001 Chopp took a position as Dean and Titus Street Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School, then moved to Colgate University, where she served as President and Professor of Philosophy and Religion from 2002 to 2009.
The years of Rebecca Chopp's presidency at Swarthmore College, from 2009 to 2014, spanned times of triumph as well as strife. In the wake of the 2008 "Great Recession," Swarthmore College successfully managed to avoid reductions in faculty, staff, or financial aid; and she secured some of the largest donations in the college's history. Chopp also helmed the adoption of a new strategic plan; and she worked to establish the Frank Aydelotte Foundation for the Advancement of the Liberal Arts in 2012. However, Chopp's term also included a period she labeled as "the spring of our discontent." In 2013, a number of Swarthmore students raised serious concerns about the college's handling of sexual assaults reported on campus, alleging violations of Title IX (the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination) and triggering investigations from the U.S. Department of Education. Around the same time, student protests about the college's investment practices, specifically investment in environmentally-destructive fossil fuels, led to confrontations between the student body and the Board of Directors. Additional incidents on campus led to a heightened, politicized atmosphere at the college.
In June of 2014, Chopp announced her resignation from Swarthmore College to accept a posting as chancellor of the University of Denver. She cited personal and professional motivations drawing her to Colorado, affirming that she loved her time at Swarthmore.
One month after Chopp announced her resignation, art history professor and former provost Constance Cain Hungerford stepped in as interim president. Hungerford continued in that role for approximately one year. Valerie Smith, a distinguished scholar of African American literature and culture and Dean of the College at Princeton University, was named the 15th president of Swarthmore College in February 2015.