Altmann, a scholar of French medieval language and literature, most recently served as provost of Bucknell University, and she impressed the F&M search committee and board with her combination of experience, intellect, and skills.
Announcing Altmann’s appointment in May 2018, Board Chair Susan Washburn described Altmann as “an exceptional teacher and scholar, a skilled and passionate advocate for the liberal arts and a leader of great depth who inspires the best in others."
"At both a research university and a liberal arts college, she has demonstrated her gifts for nimble and creative thinking, strengthening connections across disciplines and building partnerships that work. Her deep understanding of the difference that an F&M education makes in the lives of students and the world they will shape captured our imaginations, and we are thrilled to welcome her to our very special community."
Transformation and Success
In August 2018, Altmann began her tenure at a 230-year-old institution that has been hailed for leading a "recruiting revolution" (Washington Post) for its innovations in meeting the changing needs of today's students. F&M is known nationwide for having successfully implemented an array of programs to boost enrollment and success among stellar students from every background.
It has dramatically expanded its admissions outreach nationwide to high schools often overlooked in college recruiting, established a signature College House system that integrates residential and academic life, and developed a new model to support students' personal and professional development during and beyond college. Over the past seven years, F&M has nearly tripled its financial aid to each first-year class—to $16.9 million for the Class of 2021—while the proportion of students eligible for Pell Grants has increased from 5 percent to 24 percent and average SAT scores have continued to rise.
In 2008, the college made a “very bold move,” says Altmann, when it began phasing out merit-based financial aid in favor of aid based on need.
“It was a brave and bold thing to do, and it was really putting the college’s money where its mouth was.”
This shift remains important to make college more accessible and affordable for students with high financial need, a priority that is highlighted by F&M’s involvement in the American Talent Initiative, which aims to enroll an additional 50,000 students from low-income households at the country’s top 270 higher-education institutions.
"As a child of immigrants and a first-generation college student myself, I am honored and inspired to join a college that so beautifully blends the very best traditions of the liberal arts with constant innovations that are preparing students for the fullness of possibility and success in the 21st century," notes Altmann.
"I am eager to push ahead with the national momentum that outgoing President Daniel Porterfield has built for broadening access to college for talented young people from all backgrounds. We want to attract the brightest, most motivated students from every corner of the country and around the world. An F&M education is a powerful springboard toward whatever opportunities they seek after college and throughout their lives."
Co-founder and home of the Pennsylvania College Advising Corps, F&M has also built strong partnerships with leading K-12 schools and college-access organizations, including KIPP, the Posse Foundation, the Cooperman Scholars Program, and College Match.
"It is a new president's dream to join Franklin & Marshall at this moment in its evolution," Altmann adds.
Altmann succeeds Daniel Porterfield, who recently took leadership of the Aspen Institute, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. and Aspen, Colorado.
Shelly Storbeck had also assisted with the search that led to Porterfield's successful tenure as president of Franklin & Marshall from 2011 to 2018. Previously, she had assisted in the search that placed John Fry as F&M's president in 2002. Fry served in that role until 2010, when he took the reins at Drexel University.
A New President's Background
Altmann has embraced her new role, and on Twitter, her enthusiasm shows. As Altmann told a student reporter, “I was a full-time faculty member for 23 years and I loved that role. But as I got further into my career I developed a strong interest in how universities and colleges work, and it was really when my older son attended a small liberal arts college that I saw firsthand as a parent and educator what kind of an education that can provide. Here at F&M, and other liberal arts colleges, we are providing a type of education that is uniquely designed to produce students who can be flexible and capable in any career they embrace. In a way, I’m an example of that. My training was highly interdisciplinary and taught me a way of thinking and approaching things from an analytical standpoint. That’s what we’re doing here at F&M.”
Altmann, a native of Canada, received her bachelor’s degree with honors in romance languages at the University of Alberta. She earned her master’s degree in French language and literature from the University of Toronto, and her doctorate in medieval French language and literature from the same university.
Prior to her arrival at Bucknell, Dr. Altmann served for more than 25 years at the University of Oregon. She was a professor of French, chair of the Department of Romance Languages and director of the Oregon Humanities Center, before spending her last three years at the university as senior vice provost for academic affairs. She also served as an assistant visiting professor at Dartmouth College.
President Altmann has written or edited four books and written numerous articles, reviews and conference papers in her field of expertise. She has served as an elected delegate to the executive councils of the American Council of Learned Society and the Modern Language Association.