Ida Early named secretary to Board of Trustees

Ida H. Early has been named secretary to the Board of Trustees, announced Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton.

The appointment is effective July 1, when Harriet K. Switzer, Ph.D., steps down from that post.

“Harriet Switzer has been a tremendous asset to our Board and to the University community,” Wrighton said. “With great dedication and special attention to people and issues, she has contributed significantly to our improvement throughout her tenure as Secretary to the Board of Trustees.She will be deeply missed, but we will value her continued friendship, support and engagement in the life of the University.”

Ida Early
Ida Early

Wrighton added, “Ida Early brings many years of University experience to her new role, and I welcome the opportunity to work with her. Ida is very familiar with the St. Louis community and our University, and is a person of enormous ability, sensitivity and integrity who, I am confident, will be successful as the next Secretary to the Board of Trustees.”

Early is the senior associate director in Alumni & Development Programs, where her responsibilities include focusing on leadership gifts from alumni during their class reunion years; encouraging African-American alumni support of the Annual Fund and other University priorities; and providing support for the Danforth Circle (2004) and Patrons (2006) volunteers — leadership giving levels that account for 25 percent of the Annual Fund, among others.

“I am thrilled to assume this new responsibility,” Early said. “In my 25 years with the University, I have acquired a deep appreciation for our Board of Trustees and its importance in Washington University’s extraordinary progress. Harriet Switzer and her staff have set a high standard for service and management, which I am committed to maintaining.”

Early came to the University in 1982, when she started at the John M. Olin School of Business as an administrative assistant. From there, she progressed to student relations coordinator (1983-84), and in 1984 was promoted to director of special projects in the Olin School.

From 1993-96, she served as director of development and alumni programs in the School of Art, and director of development for the Gallery of Art. She took a sabbatical from the University in 1996 to serve as president of the Junior League of St. Louis from 1996-98, then returned to the University as director of annual giving programs in Alumni & Development Programs, a position she held until 2001.

From 2001-02, she was interim director of the Parents’ Program at Duke University; she returned to WUSTL to her current position in 2002, then became interim director of development for the George Warren Brown School of Social Work in 2005-06.

Early earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 and did graduate study in educational administration at Cornell University in the late 1970s.

Originally from Dallas, Early is married to Gerald L. Early, Ph.D., the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters, director of the Center for the Humanities and professor of African & African American studies, of American culture studies and of English, all in Arts & Sciences. The couple has two children.

In her role as secretary to the Board, Early will serve as chief liaison between the Board, the office of the Chancellor and senior administrative officers, and will be responsible for coordinating the work of the University’s policy makers.

She also will be a University Council member.

Switzer has served as secretary to the Board for more than 26 years, working with two chancellors (Wrighton and Chancellor Emeritus William H. Danforth), seven chairmen of the Board of Trustees and nine presidents of the Women’s Society (WSWU).

“Transitions are easy when the people involved are such talented, intelligent, caring and outstanding leaders,” Switzer said. “Bill Danforth and Mark Wrighton are two of the finest leaders in higher education. It’s an honor and a privilege to work with them, as well as with wonderful Board members and with the WSWU Board and all the terrific WSWU members.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree (1957) and a master’s (1964), both in philosophy from Manhattanville College, she earned a doctorate in philosophy from Fordham University in 1968.

In 1970, Switzer, then a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart, became president of Maryville College, now Maryville University. During her seven-year tenure, she is credited with transitioning Maryville from a traditional Catholic women’s college to an independent, co-educational institution and also kept the school from closing while increasing enrollment from 340 to 1,200.

In January 1977, she stepped down from Maryville. Later that year, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat recognized her as a Woman of Achievement in Education. After a year of visiting Sacred Heart schools in six countries of the Orient and two years of “internships” at Boston College, Radcliffe and Harvard universities, she returned to St. Louis in 1980 where she joined Washington University and became assistant secretary and assistant to the chancellor.

In 1981, she was named secretary to the Board of Trustees; in 1986, she also became University Coordinator of the Women’s Society.

In 1992, she married David L. Cronin, now retired associate dean of the School of Social Work; they have three children and three grandchildren.