Marketing & Communications: SAIC Names Elissa Tenny President to Succeed Walter Massey, Effective July 1, 2016

Heading into the 2015–16 academic year and the school’s 150th anniversary, the Board of Trustees provides for a seamless leadership transition when President Walter Massey assumes the position of chancellor.

Chicago—The Board of Trustees of the Art Institute of Chicago, which includes the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), elected Elissa Tenny as the art and design school’s president, effective July 1, 2016. Tenny currently serves as SAIC’s provost and senior vice president of academic affairs and will succeed current President Walter E. Massey, who will complete the final year of his presidency during the 2015–16 academic year.

Massey will step down on June 30, 2016 after a successful six-year presidency and will assume the position of chancellor of the school on July 1, 2016. In this role, Dr. Massey will focus on major fundraising initiatives and other outreach efforts on behalf of the school.

The Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Robert M. Levy, and the Chairman of SAIC’s Board of Governors, Cary McMillan, noted that Tenny was selected based on her outstanding leadership as provost and senior vice president of academic affairs of SAIC and her vision for competing as a top-tier school on a global scale.

“Since joining the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Elissa has played a pivotal role in elevating the academic strengths of SAIC’s interdisciplinary curriculum and reputation in Chicago and beyond, and we are very pleased she will serve as our next president,” said Robert Levy, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Cary McMillan, Chairman of the Board of Governors added, “We are so thankful to President Massey for his transformational leadership at SAIC and we know that the great momentum he has generated since joining SAIC will continue when Elissa takes the helm during the 2015–16 academic year.”

Massey joined SAIC in 2010 on an interim basis for a one-year term, but extended his contract at the request of the Board of Trustees in 2011.

“As I enter the final year of my term as the president of one of the leading art and design schools in the world, I am looking forward to working alongside Elissa as we transition into our new roles,” said Walter Massey, SAIC President. “Elissa understands what makes the School of the Art Institute of Chicago a world-class institution—talented students dedicated to studying and making art, committed faculty who are the best in their fields, and experienced staff who help the school run effectively—and I am so pleased she was selected to succeed me.”

With over 35 years of experience in higher education, Tenny joined SAIC in 2010 as provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. Tenny’s signature initiatives include establishing the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Center for Research and Collaboration and implementing the school’s strategic plan, which identified priority areas of focus for enhancing academic programming, creating organizational efficiencies and developing diversity initiatives.

“The School of the Art Institute of Chicago has been a leader in art and design education for nearly 150 years, and I am humbled to have the opportunity to carry on the school’s legacy and help pave the way for the next generation of thinkers and makers,” said Elissa Tenny. “I have learned so much from our students, faculty and staff over the last five years and I am looking forward to leading the school as we head into our next 150 years.”

Prior to joining SAIC, Tenny served as provost and dean at Bennington College in Vermont, where she promoted interdisciplinary and integrative scholarship, crafting strategic plans for the college, enhancing curriculum planning and promoting faculty development. Prior to joining Bennington, Tenny served in a variety of roles at The New School in New York from 1977 to 2002, eventually holding the positions of acting dean and vice dean. During her time at the New School, Tenny was credited with the expansion of degree offerings, and an overhaul of communication and marketing strategies, both of which contributed to record enrollment growth. Tenny holds a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Arts in Media Studies from The New School, and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

Since joining SAIC, Tenny has worked closely with the Faculty Senate on a number of initiatives, and the senate provided its full support for the appointment.

“Together Walter and Elissa have been engaged with the Faculty Senate and provided a clear vision for SAIC,” said Rachel Weiss, Faculty Senate Chair and Professor, Arts Administration and Policy. “Elissa understands our culture and the importance of promoting a shared governance with the leadership at SAIC, and we are thrilled to have her serve as the next president.”

About the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

A leader in educating artists, designers, and scholars since 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers nationally accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees and post-baccalaureate programs to more than 3,200 students from around the globe. SAIC also provides adults, high school students, and children with the opportunity to flourish in a variety of courses, workshops, certificate programs, and camps through its Continuing Studies program. Located in the heart of Chicago, SAIC has an educational philosophy built upon an interdisciplinary approach to art and design, giving students unparalleled opportunities to develop their creative and critical abilities, while working with renowned faculty who include many of the leading practitioners in their fields. SAIC's resources include the Art Institute of Chicago and its new Modern Wing; numerous special collections and programming venues provide students with exceptional exhibitions, screenings, lectures, and performances. For more information, please visit

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