CANTON, N.Y. (WWTI) – Kathryn A. Morris was inaugurated as St. Lawrence University’s 19th president during a ceremony at the 166-year-old university on Saturday.

Morris took the helm at St. Lawrence University on July 1, 2021, following a career at Butler University where she served as the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. Prior to that, she was a professor of psychology and department chair. Her expertise includes social psychology, the psychology of gender, research methodology and statistics.

Morris announced that the university plans to develop its first center for excellence next year. The new Center for the Environment will take advantage of the university’s location between the Adirondack Mountains and St. Lawrence River.

The center will capitalize on its local and global commitments and will ultimately include outposts at Camp Canaras and at its compound in Kenya, according to the university.

Morris shared her vision with the audience at the inauguration ceremony for what she calls “Laurentian Impact.”

“Laurentian Impact is what happens when St. Lawrence graduates use what they learned in college to make a positive difference in the world after graduation. It’s about empowering students to discern their passions, to develop their sense of purpose, and to use their educational experiences in college-both in and out of the classroom. Laurentian Impact is about building futures that not only ensure our graduates can make a living, but also to make a life that is meaningful and that positively impacts others through their professional work, volunteer work, or civic engagement,” Morris said. “It is my vision that our combined Laurentian Impact will reach farther and wider than ever before in the history of our institution.”

Morris expressed gratitude for the hundreds in attendance representing trustees, alumni, past presidents, students, faculty, staff, North Country community members, former students, delegates from other institutions of higher education, friends, family members and local dignitaries, including officials from the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and the village and town of Canton.

She recognized her late grandparents during her speech, only one of whom had a high school diploma, for making sacrifices to ensure their descendants would be able to attend college.

“Simply put, higher education forever changed my family, both personally and in terms of our economic mobility, and that has affected us for generations,” Morris said.

Morris said innovation will continue to be a hallmark of the university, one of the first schools to create an environmental studies program. St. Lawrence University recently launched six new majors: digital media and film, pre-health chemistry, public health, biomedical sciences, data science and finance.

In her keynote address, Stephenie R. Chaudoir, associate professor at College of the Holy Cross, credited President Morris, her former psychology professor, for helping her recognize and attain goals that seemed at first unimaginable.

“As a first-gen college student from a working class family, I did not know what the letters P-h-D stood for, much less what it might mean to pursue the degree,” Chaudoir said. “And, yet, by naming what she saw in me, it made me see myself differently. It broke open the space that I needed in order to pursue the life of the mind while grounded in my own unique roots.”

Morris is married to Brian Giesler, a member of the university’s psychology department. They have a son, Logan, a daughter, Erin, and a dog, Comet.

The inauguration is available to view online.