Winthrop’s new president moves in, takes office next week

Winthrop University’s President-elect Dan Mahony, right, and his wife Laura stand in the kitchen at the President’s House on Oakland Avenue on Tuesday.
Winthrop University’s President-elect Dan Mahony, right, and his wife Laura stand in the kitchen at the President’s House on Oakland Avenue on Tuesday.

One week away from starting his first college presidency, Dan Mahony and his family moved into their Winthrop University campus home on Tuesday morning.

The moving truck arrived early Tuesday, but the Mahony family had made their way from Ohio to Rock Hill a few days ago – just in time for their two children to start local summer sports camps.

Winthrop’s 11th president was chosen in March by school trustees. His official start date is July 1 – just ahead of the start to the university’s 130th academic year. Until then, Winthrop Provost Debra Boyd will continue to serve as the school’s acting president.

Winthrop’s president-elect and acting president have talked a lot over recent months. The transition period, Mahony said, has mostly involved him learning and listening, with Boyd leading Winthrop day-to-day.

Boyd “has just done a fabulous job” as acting president, Mahony said. “The ‘acting’ role is, I think, one of the most difficult roles you can have. I’ve never seen anybody do it as well as she has.”

Next month, Mahony plans to unveil his strategies for leading the university over the first three months and into his first year as president. It’s expected that his major initiatives will include growing Winthrop’s student enrollment, boosting fundraising efforts and supporting a “college town” plan for Rock Hill.

Mahony has said that many of Winthrop’s current needs involve issues he has tackled at other universities. He has described his leadership style as collaborative and realistic.

Earlier this year, English professor John Bird, the faculty representative on Winthrop’s Board of Trustees, said faculty members fully support Mahony. Professors were impressed, he said, by Mahony’s “calm steadiness” and action-oriented approach toward decision making. They also liked that Mahony has served in a range of campus positions, Bird said, including holding faculty leadership roles.

Until he takes office in Tillman Hall, Mahony said, he and his wife, Laura Mahony, are focused on making sure their family has a smooth transition to South Carolina.

Mahony was honored this month by the American Association of University Administrators with a leadership award. The winner of the new McInnis/Ryan Award for Mid-Career Higher Education Leadership is selected by a group of college administration professionals.

On Tuesday, Mahony said he was surprised by the honor but grateful for the recognition from his peers.

Mahony comes to Winthrop from Kent State University in Ohio, where he has served since 2008 as dean of the school’s college of education, health and human services. He has a background in accounting, sport management, and research in higher education management/administration.

In total, he has more than 20 years of experience working at colleges and universities, including a 13-year stint at the University of Louisville.

Mahony competed for the Winthrop job earlier this year with two other deans from public colleges: Alan Shao of the College of Charleston and Jeff Elwell of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Winthrop trustees spent more than six months looking for a replacement for 10th President Jamie Comstock Williamson, who was fired last summer.

The three finalists were selected for multi-day on-campus interviews from a pool of more than 80 applicants.

Dan and Laura Mahony and their children – Gavin, 15, and Elena, 12 – will live in Winthrop’s historic President’s House, at the corner of Oakland and Stewart avenues. Gavin will attend Northwestern High School and Elena will attend Rawlinson Road Middle School.

Laura Mahony said she plans to support her husband in his new job and Winthrop overall in any way she’s needed.

“We love the university environment,” she said, “and we’re very excited about playing our role and getting to know all the people here.”

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068