NEWPORT — Dr. Kelli J. Armstrong was inaugurated as Salve Regina University’s eighth president on Sept. 20 amid a full day of events that included Mass celebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin.
“Please know of our prayers and personal support as you begin this new chapter in your life and service to the Church. May God be with you to bless you with his finest gifts now and in the days to come,” Bishop Tobin said to Armstrong following the Mass, which was celebrated beneath a large white tent on the oceanside lawn of McAuley Hall.
As she later hugged and posed for pictures with well-wishers, Armstrong said she “was so lucky.”
“I am so fortunate to be part of this Mercy mission and to be a member of the Salve Regina community,” Armstrong said. “The Mass today was absolutely beautiful.”
Armstrong also said she hoped her inauguration would bring attention to Salve Regina University.
“My hope is that more people in the world understand what Salve Regina is trying to do in the local community and beyond, and the mission that we’re trying to serve,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong, who succeeds Religious Sister of Mercy Dr. Jane Gerety, officially began her duties as president in July. She is the first layperson to serve as president of Salve Regina University, which was founded by the Religious Sisters of Mercy.
Armstrong was previously the vice president for planning and assessment at Boston College, where she also served as associate vice president and as founding director of the college’s institutional research department.
She graduated from Bates College in 1986, earned a master’s degree in English from the University of Virginia and a doctorate in higher education administration from Boston College. She also earned an executive leadership certificate in management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2018.
“Dr. Kelli Armstrong is the ideal person to lead Salve Regina into its next chapter,” Cheryl Mrozowski, chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees, said in a prepared statement.
“Her ability to articulate a vision plan by highlighting and promoting Salve’s valuable educational experience centered on its strong liberal arts tradition and underscored by the mercy values of service illustrates her strength,” Mrozowski said. “Her collaborative leadership style of building constituencies and promoting transparency in communication is the perfect fit for Salve. Her background in planning and assessment at Boston College provides valuable hands on experience for leading Salve into the future.”
A press release from the university said Armstrong’s work in higher education has centered on improving the educational experience for students through research, planning and strategy, and that she is “particularly passionate” about serving disadvantaged students and supporting the advancement of women in underrepresented areas.
Armstrong, the eldest of four daughters, grew up in Massachusetts, on the South Shore. She is married to Brian Griffin, an attorney, and they have two sons, David and Jake.
Coinciding with Armstrong’s inauguration, the Salve Regina community celebrated Mercy Week from Sept. 18-26.
“I’m humbled and honored to serve at such an exceptional institution,” Armstrong said in a prepared statement. “What sets Salve apart from other universities is that in the great tradition of a mercy education, we help our students become their best selves and make a difference in the world. Salve students are making a difference.”
Following the Mass, an inauguration ceremony, which was also open to the wider Newport community, was held in the tent outside McAuley Hall. The ceremony was followed by an academic procession from the O’Hare Academic Building.
The day’s events also included a barbecue for students on the Gerety Hall lawn and an inaugural ball under the tent, which was open to students. The university ended classes at noon to give students the opportunity to participate in the day’s events, which also kicked off a theme for the academic year: “The Mercy Promise: A Celebration of Our Community, Collaboration and the Creative Spirit.”