Dr. Kathy Brittain Richardson became Westminster College’s 15th president on July 1, 2016. Her tenure began with leading faculty and through the collaborative development of a student-focused strategic plan. This plan has grounded many of Westminster’s achievements during the past six years. The College has completed more than $40 million in campus improvements, including the renovation and expansion of the Hoyt Science Center; the addition of three new athletic fields; renovations in the Memorial Field House and Wallace Memorial Chapel; significant upgrades throughout several residence halls; and replacement of the campus wifi network. A Cultural Center opened in fall 2022 as the College continues to implement its strategic plan for diversity and equity, and the federally-funded TRIO Student Support Services program, established during Dr. Richardson’s presidency, lends additional assistance to first-generation students and those with other equity markers. New degree programs in nursing, environmental studies, marketing and professional sales, music technology, sports management, and a master of business administration have been added to the curriculum. Westminster’s accreditation was reaffirmed under Dr. Richardson’s leadership, and the nursing program also gained accreditation.
The theme of Dr. Richardson’s presidency has focused on the “We in Westminster,” emphasizing collaborative networks and the collective responsibility that arises out of a college education. To this end, Dr. Richardson has been an important partner across the Pittsburgh region and Commonwealth. She serves on and has provided leadership for the Lawrence County Regional Chamber, the Economic Development Corporation of New Wilmington, the Presidents Athletic Conference, the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities, and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania. She was recognized in City and State Pennsylvania magazine’s 2022 Higher Education Power 100.
Before coming to Westminster College, Richardson was provost and professor of communication at Berry College, Mt. Berry. A highly regarded scholar, Richardson co-authored Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning, which is now in its 11th edition, and Applied Public Relations: Cases in Stakeholder Management, in its 3rd edition. Richardson served as editor of Journalism and Communication Monographs and was co-editor of the National Forensic Journal.
She was a member of the editorial board of Mass Communication & Society and the Journal of Mass Media Ethics. In 2014, she was recognized as the Alumna Scholar of the Year by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication of the University of Georgia. In 2012, she received the Professor of the Year award from the Small Programs Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Dr. Richardson earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Religion/Philosophy, summa cum laude, from Shorter College, a master’s degree in journalism and a doctorate in mass communication from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. She completed additional graduate coursework in communication at the University of Oklahoma.
She is married to Dr. Randy Richardson and has two adult stepchildren, Ashton and Lauren.
Dear Friends of Westminster College,
What’s it worth to you? This sometimes flippant question was often posed by one of my siblings when we were growing up and I had the audacity to ask one of them to help me with a chore or to answer a question. Depending on the urgency of the occasion, the perceived “worth” could rise or fall quickly, based on the calculation of my need or their desire to tease.
However, I have heard that question raised more frequently in recent days as pundits debate the value of a college education. Sometimes centering around dollars and cents, they offer data such as the financial cost of tuition and fees versus graduates’ starting salaries, or they discuss the gain in salaries of college graduates compared to non-graduates over time. (The data are clear in that matter, by the way. College graduates’ lifetime earnings greatly outpace those of others.) Occasionally, the question targets the worthwhile nature of skills and abilities that are honed in college as opposed to the worksite or apprenticeship.
What’s a college education worth to you? As a first-generation graduate of a small liberal arts college, I can answer that question very personally. My undergraduate experience opened a myriad of opportunities for my growth—intellectual, economic, social, religious, and professional. I learned to read more deeply and write more effectively, to reason critically and listen respectfully, to understand history and science more objectively and the forces that affect behaviors and norms more empathetically. The students I met in classrooms, residence halls, organizations and choirs came from wider backgrounds and different perspectives, as did the faculty who taught, mentored and challenged me. Through those interactions, my world view grew and deepened, as did my sense of self-efficacy. Learning to learn and to value the importance of such a practice was itself one of the most important values gained. I was prepared not only for my first destination post-graduation, but also for the immense changes that would occur in my disciplines of mass communication and higher education in the years that followed. To use a Westminster allusion, my college education opened doors for me then and continues to open doors for me years later.
The value of such an education seems ever more important for students and for our region and nation. The skills of critical reflection, civic discourse and social responsibility and the body of knowledge across disciplines gained through formal curricula and extra- and cocurricular opportunities build deep foundations on which lives of great fulfillment can be built. Further, at a small college like Westminster, students forge strong bonds with classmates and teammates and connect with faculty, staff and coaches who become lifelong mentors and role models. This type of education offers experiences in and outside the classroom that set resumes or grad school applications apart. The four years invested in such personal and professional growth yield strong returns for the many years that follow—returns that may be calculated in real dollars but also in those attributes and qualities that carry even greater personal and lasting value.
Knowing this, we are gratified to again be recognized by U.S. News & World Report for the fourth consecutive year for promoting social mobility. The report, which assesses colleges based on the number of Pell-eligible students who enroll and who graduate in four years, ranked Westminster the #9 liberal arts college in the nation. The truth is our faculty and staff provide support that enables all students—whether they are the first in their family to go to college or they come to Westminster as seventh-generation scholars--to achieve their goal of a diploma and new opportunities. And then, as alumni, they leave Westminster with the “characteristics, competencies and commitments” that prepare them for lives of meaning, integrity, leadership and service in pathways that pay dividends for themselves and their families for decades. The Titan experience moves young people from where they were as they arrived to where they want to be when they graduate—and afterward.
So, what it’s worth to me? The growth and achievements of Titans in classrooms, studios, labs and halls; on the fields, courts, courses and pools; in meetings, in volunteering and on worksites have lasting value, value demonstrated throughout the years in the many ways in which our alumni rise to the tops of their professions, serve their communities and organizations, care for their families, and live with faith and integrity. 170 years of higher education at Westminster with thousands of students, faculty and staff—it’s the Titan legacy—and its value is, indeed, priceless.
It's a great day to be a Titan!
Dr. Kathy B. Richardson
President of Westminster College