End of an Era: Dr. Elizabeth Sibolski Officially Retires as MSCHE President

r. Elizabeth H. Sibolski

After 20 years at MSCHE, including the last 10 as President, Dr. Elizabeth H. Sibolski has retired.

Over the course of her two decades with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Dr. Elizabeth H. Sibolski has been witness to much change not only within the Commission but across the higher education environment.

Dr. Sibolski, who took part in her 59th and final Commission meeting on June 25, 2020, ahead of her official retirement on June 30, now officially hands the presidency off to Dr. Heather F. Perfetti who assumes the reigns on July 1. The transition was announced last year and celebrated at the MSCHE 2019 Annual Conference.

“It has been a real honor to have served the Commission for 20 years,” Dr. Sibolski said at the Commission meeting. “Although we are living in interesting times right now, I’m sure with the knowledge of what we’ve been able to do over the last four months, all of you should be confident in the new leadership for the Commission.”

Dr. Sibolski joined MSCHE in 2000 as a Vice President and was named Executive Vice President in 2007 before being appointed President in 2009. Much has transpired in that time.

“It has been an interesting two decades of change in what the Commission has been and is now,” she said. “When I joined the Commission in 2000, there were somewhat fewer institutions. It was also a kinder and gentler time when we did not touch institutions in the way we do today. Now, the Commission knows much more about each individual member institution than we did at the beginning of my tenure, and I think that is good.

“Not only do we know more about our institutional members, we have a much better chance of understanding what their problems are and trying to work with them through those problem areas.”

During her presidency, Dr. Sibolski saw and helped steer the Commission’s move to become independent and grow as an organization. As if to underscore the changes accomplished during her presidency, the June 2020 Commission meeting broke new ground for the first time in its entirely virtual format given the ongoing concerns related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Over those two decades, we went through the separation from the Middle States Association, and went through the process of developing new, contemporary standards and processes, and new policies for how we will work. We’ve come to be data driven in our decision making, and we’ve accepted new technology platforms that in fact allow us to have virtual visits and to be able to have virtual meetings like the one that we are having today. That is a tremendous amount of territory. And with the Commission’s good advice and counsel, we’ve been able to move this far ahead.”

Commissioner and Chair of the Committee on Evaluation Reports Col.(R) Gerald C. Kobylski, who serves as Director of Institutional Effectiveness at the United States Military Academy remarked to the Commissioners: “When I reflect back on how Beth has continuously inspired us, numerous examples immediately come to mind from Commission and committee meetings, annual conferences, and other gatherings we have.

“During each of these, we have had the opportunity to hear Beth’s always timely and relevant remarks. I looked at my notes and handouts I retained from some of her remarks dating back to 2013 and to my surprise, I realized the values, ideas and priorities that I have come to embrace and uphold in what we do are what she has repeatedly emphasized over the years.”

At almost every meeting, Dr. Sibolski would remind those in attendance to keep in mind the mantra to be “fair, equitable, and consistent” in the actions and considerations at hand.

“Beth’s thoughtfulness and her measured, principled handling of issues is of course most relevant for us here today in terms of her Commission work, which has been formidable,” said Commissioner and Chair of the Committee on Follow-Up and Candidate Institutions Dr. David B. Rehm, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Misericordia University. “I have been honored to work with Beth in so many capacities these past 18 years, and I am confident that I speak for all of us when I say that we will miss you tremendously but also know that you deserve the time to do other things that I know you are aching to do.”

Dr. Sibolski transitions the Commission’s presidency to Dr. Perfetti, who was named President-Elect in June 2019 and also held titles of Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs and Chief of Staff and Vice President for Institutional Field Relations. Dr. Perfetti becomes the Commission’s ninth president after joining the Commission in 2015 and has during her time provided organizational-wide leadership.

It is the people who are part of this accrediting community that make the real difference.  The Commissioners, volunteers, and staff members I have had the pleasure of working with over the years represent an extraordinary group of colleagues and friends who are all dedicated to doing the right things and doing them well,” Dr. Sibolski said.