Chris Gibson, who was named the 12th president of Siena College, said,
“we need Siena graduates now more than ever.” (Emily Benson photo)
Chris Gibson, who was named the 12th president of Siena College, said, “we need Siena graduates now more than ever.” (Emily Benson photo)

Chris Gibson, a former three-term Republican Congressman from Kinderhook, has been named the 12th president of Siena College. 

A decorated military veteran and alumni of Siena College, class of ’86, Gibson is the first non-friar to serve as permanent leader of Siena since the college’s founding in 1937. 

The announcement, attended by faculty, staff and students, was made at a special ceremony on Friday, Feb. 14, at the Maloney Great Room of the Sarazen Student Union. Gibson replaced interim president Margaret E. Madden, who took over in June 2019 after the sudden death of Brother Edward Coughlin, OFM, Siena’s 11th president.

Gibson’s five-year term is scheduled to begin on July 1. He will formally be inaugurated in a campus ceremony in the fall. 

“I’ve had three professional lives to date: first as a soldier coming out of Siena College … and then I served as a Representative in the U.S. House, and that was also a great privilege, but of all the callings I’ve had, this one is the strongest,” Gibson said at the ceremony. “I believe that at this time in our country … we need Siena graduates now more than ever.”

Gibson is currently the Stanley Kaplan Distinguished Visiting professor of American Foreign Policy at Williams College. He served District NY-19 in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2011-17 and served as one of the co-chairs of the bi-partisan caucus “No Labels.” After graduating Siena, he served in the U.S. Army for 29 years where he rose to the rank of colonel and was awarded the Purple Heart, four Bronze Star Medals and two Legions of Merit. 

John F. Murray, ’79, chairman of Board of Trustees, said Siena connected with hiring firm R.H. Perry and Associates, an executive search firm focused on assisting institutions in higher education, as part of their search for the new president. The committee received more than 75 applications from across the country, but Gibson’s appointment was approved unanimously by the College’s Board of Trustees in a special session. 

“His dedication to liberal arts education and Siena’s Franciscan values, coupled with his leadership experience as an elected member of Congress, (and as a) military officer and respected scholar will be a tremendous asset as a higher education executive,” Murray said in a written statement.

“When I talk about this mission at Siena, we don’t just talk about intellectual development, but its intellectual, it’s physical, it’s moral and ethical, it’s religious and spiritual. And I believe with that harmony and with that balance, when life really comes at you, you’re in a position to be ready and to rise above and be a leader to others,” Gibson said. 

The new president credited “listening and learning” from the “world class faculty” at Siena as part of his first steps in settling into his new position at the college. When asked about being the college’s first non-Franciscan leader, he assured that the change does not equate to stepping away from the Franciscan values rooted in the university. 

“This is not a departure,” Gibson said. “(Keeping) that Franciscan tradition front and strong is priority No. 1, and keeping the excellence in the curriculum and the classroom that’s priority No. 2.

“I would tell you that from what I’ve learned already, we’re going to soar. When I say our best days are in front of us, I believe that … we’re going to be top tier in the nation, not just upstate New York. Siena College is going to be mentioned above all the others when it comes to the icons in higher education.”