Former MCLA President Mary Grant accepts post with Bridgewater State University

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BOSTON — Mary Grant enjoyed leading the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate, but when an opportunity to return to higher education came her way, she decided to take it. 

After less than two years as president/CEO of the Kennedy Institute, Grant, the former president of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, has left to take a position at Bridgewater State University.

Grant will join Bridgewater State in January as senior administrative fellow for civics and social justice, according to a statement released by the university. She will head the university's Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice, named in honor of the youngest victim of the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon. Bill and Denise Richard, Martin Richard's parents, are Bridgewater State graduates, as are two of Grant's relatives, including her sister. Also, Grant has known Bridgewater State President Frederick W. Clark Jr., a former chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, for 20 years.

Bridgewater State, located 25 miles south of Boston, has 10,990 students and is the state's largest college or university outside the University of Massachusetts system.

"The opportunity to let me back in close proximity to students on a college campus just felt so right," Grant said in a phone interview, adding that she wouldn't have left the institute if this position had not been available.

"We're working on a number of projects at the Kennedy Institute that are still ongoing," she said. "I really did this as an opportunity to return to a campus to work on these matters that have mattered to me my whole life.

"So, I felt privileged to come to the Kennedy Institute, but now I feel even more privileged to be taking this next step."

The Kennedy Institute already has named Art Buckland as interim director, but Grant said she will remain in her position through the middle of next week to tie up some loose ends.

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She'll take the rest of the year off "because I wanted to give myself time to transition," Grant said. "I've been renovating a house, and I wanted to finish that before I jumped into this and take a little bit of time, get some projects squared away."

The Kennedy Institute has partnered with Bridgewater State, and Grant said she expects those efforts to continue.

"One of the first things my interim director said to me was, 'Can we do some work?'" Grant said. "I said, it's all good."

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The Martin Richard Institute oversees major programs designed to expand high-quality education for all children, through initiatives like the Bridge Partnership, which is tasked with increasing high school graduation and college attendance rates for low-income students who live in the Gateway Cities of Brockton and New Bedford.

At this point, Grant said, she doesn't know what her specific duties at the Martin Richard Institute will be. But the new position "allows me to pull together my love of higher education, and my work for social justice," she said. "I'm eager to learn."

In a statement, the Richards said they have worked with Grant. 

"We look forward to working with her in the years to come as we take the Martin Richard Institute to the next level," they said.

While serving as president of MCLA from 2002 to 2014, Grant nominated MCLA history professor Francis Jones-Sneed for the Sarah A. Lewis Social Justice Award at the Massachusetts Hall of Black Achievement at Bridgewater State in 2011. Jones-Sneed is professor emeritus of history, political science and public policy at MCLA.

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Grant, who grew up in Weymouth, joined the Kennedy Institute in January 2018, after serving as chancellor of the University of North Carolina-Asheville from January 2015 to December 2017.

During her almost two-year tenure in Boston, Grant launched several new civic education programs and secured significant grant funding, while raising the Kennedy Institute's national profile, according to a statement. At its annual dinner Oct. 24, the institute raised more than $1.5 million in support of its educational and public programs. 

This year, the institute received the inaugural Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics Award from the Annenberg Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The award includes a $200,000 cash prize that will pay for the building of a national initiative to train teachers how to discuss difficult topics in their classrooms. Grant also awarded the late senator an honorary degree many years ago.

"It's been an opportunity of a lifetime to lead the Kennedy Institute," Grant said in a statement released by the institute. "I have had the privilege to work with an extraordinary staff whose expertise and creativity make it possible for us to have the success we have had and a board that is passionate about the mission and the success of the institute. The work has never been more important."

"Mary Grant has performed extraordinary work for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute," said James J. Karam, chairman of the institute's board of directors. "She deepened our partnerships, helped raise our civic education profile, and positioned our young and dynamic organization well for the future."

The Edward M. Kennedy Institute, which opened in 2015, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan civic education organization. It was envisioned by Kennedy to educate future generations about the role of the U.S. Senate in our democracy, encourage civic participation and inspire a new generation of leaders.

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at or 413-496-6224.


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