Webb student to Yale prez: 40 years

History-making for this Ivy League university, Maurie McInnis, a 1984 graduate of Webb School of Knoxville, will take the helm as Yale’s 24th and first permanent female president Monday, July 1.

Serving six years as the president of Stony Brook University in New York, McInnis is headed back to the New Haven, Connecticut, campus where 35 years ago she began as a graduate student. She earned her doctorate degree in 1996.

Excited, she wrote in a release following her appointment of the desire “to reconnect with those I know and to meet so many more of you.”

Josh Bekenstein, senior trustee of the Yale Board of Trustees and chair of the Presidential Search Committee, complimented McInnis, a trustee since 2022 herself, in a written statement to the Yale community, calling her a “compelling leader, distinguished scholar, and devoted educator ... [with] a deep understanding of higher education and an unwavering commitment to our mission and academic priorities.”

Back at Webb, admiration and praise followed from a current administrator and a few of her former teachers who have since retired.

“In 2017, Webb School proudly recognized Dr. Maurie McInnis with its Distinguished Alumni Award,” Webb president Dr. Ansel Sanders said in a statement. “And today her journey continues to inspire.

“We congratulate her,” he continued, “on becoming Yale University’s first permanent female president — a historic achievement. Webb School is immensely proud of Dr. McInnis’ leadership and accomplishments.”

“Thinking about Maurie, three characteristics immediately come to mind: she is intellectually gifted, intelligent and has utmost integrity,” said Sheila Jacobstein, McInnis’ upper school science teacher at Webb. “She is an amazing individual who demonstrates graciousness as she interacts with others.

“As a student in my AP biology class,” she continued, “Maurie was always organized and approached every problem and project with logic and a commitment to excellence. At the same time, she welcomed others to the table and valued their input. I cannot say enough about how extraordinary Maurie is. It was such a joy to have taught her. It’s been both thrilling and rewarding to have followed Maurie’s academic and professional career since she graduated from Webb School.”

Maybe lending to McInnis’ writing talents and perhaps piquing her interest in history, English teacher Ginna Mashburn wrote that her appointment wasn’t a shock.

“Maurie was a wonderful student,” she remembered, “always doing consistently good work with apparent ease. As a member of a very strong class academically, she more than held her own but was not flashy about it. In fact, her independence and self-assurance are traits that stand out. Her professional success comes as no surprise.”

Warren Heiser is another of McInnis’ English teachers from her days at Webb who taught her in sophomore Honors English class.

“I remember Maurie as a top student and a great individual— responsible and mature well beyond her years,” Heiser said.

She is the daughter of Malcolm and Jackie McInnis — both retired professors of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville — who are natives of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Her family, who moved to Knoxville when Maurie was about 6 years old, “encouraged my curiosity from an early age,” the president-elect stated in an e-mail.

“The Webb School further nurtured that curiosity,” she added. “The high-quality education I received there was instrumental to my career trajectory,” contributing her devotion to a career in education and research to those roots planted here in Knoxville.

“I understand that serving as president of Yale means that I can play an important role as a role model. I am honored to have that opportunity.”

McInnis will succeed outgoing Yale president Peter Salovey.