Meet the Dean
By Victoria Kidd, editor
The job of a college dean may seem a little lackluster compared to some of the more exciting choices in the workforce. Yet this dean leads anything but a dry life.
In fact, Marsha Kelliher is perfectly at home in the water. She began diving to overcome claustrophobia and ended up becoming a licensed underwater hunter with an advanced diving certification, capable of spear fishing at depths of 50 to 70 feet. She’s even credited with saving another diver’s life during an underwater training exercise near San Diego. “The guy I was partnered with panicked and went through all of his air,” explains Kelliher, who pulled the man to the surface while sharing her oxygen with him.
Only twice has she felt uncomfortable in the water: once while swimming through a large shipwreck with other divers in front of and behind her; and once when she encountered a group of sharks while diving in Belize with some graduate students. Fortunately, they were nonaggressive nurse sharks, more interested in swimming with the divers than eating them.
Experience would suggest she’s also at ease in the skies. Over the past three years, Kelliher spent much of her time at 30,000 feet and above. She’s traveled to 15 different countries—some more than once—in Asia, Europe, South America and North America during that time to create joint programming, faculty and student exchanges and institutional partnerships between St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas, and universities overseas. She’s been traveling so much that she says her favorite vacation spot is home.
Home for Kelliher includes her husband, David, a market researcher and radio personality, and their two “children”—miniature poodles Remy, named after Dennis Quaid’s character Remy McSwain in the 1987 movie The Big Easy; and Calleigh, named after CSI: Miami character Calleigh Duquesne. Kelliher’s love of murder mysteries, especially novels by Diane Mott Davidson, is quite evident, as is the love she and David share for their canine companions.
Kelliher says her biggest guilty pleasure is “hanging out with my two dogs,” but David would argue that it’s her spa days. And in all fairness, he may know best after two decades of marriage. In January, the couple celebrated their 20th anniversary by renewing their vows before an Elvis impersonator in a Las Vegas wedding chapel. The months that followed were a whirlwind of activity that culminated with a move to chilly central Pennsylvania. A southern Indiana native who lived in San Diego and Austin, Texas, Kelliher says her first order of business was to invest in a new wardrobe of sweat suits after arriving in August.
An attorney by trade (a career choice she made in eighth grade), Kelliher served as dean of St. Edwards’ School of Management and Business before moving to Selinsgrove. There she led the creation of a Global Business and Societal Responsibility Institute to engage students and faculty in global consulting, service learning and volunteer projects. In addition to the courses offered through the institute, the school provides a minimum of three courses each year for undergraduate students that include a one-week to 10-day trip abroad and a one-month, faculty-led summer abroad program.
Sound familiar? Kelliher says the Global Opportunities (GO) program is one of the things that attracted her to Susquehanna. She was particularly impressed with the business school’s London Program, as well as Susquehanna’s leadership team. And as the daughter of a first-generation college student, she says she had a keen desire to continue her career with a “values-based liberal arts university that has a level of diversity among students, especially first generations.” Nonetheless, what sealed the deal for Kelliher were the students.
“What sold me on Susquehanna was my interaction with students. Their level of engagement, how they described their relationships with faculty, and their commitment to academic success and their careers is incredible,” she says.
Dean, Sigmund Weis School of Business
B.A., personnel management with a concentration in labor relations,
Indiana University at Bloomington
South Texas College of Law
LL.M. in labor and employment law,
University of San Diego
FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR
DEAD AGAIN (1991)