Susan Westerberg Prager, a professor and former dean at the UCLA law school and once the No. 2 administrator at Dartmouth College, was chosen Tuesday to be the president of Occidental College.
Prager, 63, will be the first woman to lead the 119-year-old Los Angeles liberal arts school and its 13th president.
She was named the permanent replacement for Theodore R. Mitchell, who stepped down as Occidental's president in September after six years and was credited with reinvigorating the college. Mitchell left to become chief executive of the NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit focusing on efforts to improve public education in urban areas.
Prager, like Mitchell, graduated from Stanford University after studying history. She earned a law degree at UCLA, and eventually served as dean of the university's law school for 16 years, an unusually long stint.
In 1999, Prager left to become provost of Dartmouth College, but returned to UCLA in 2001 as a professor with an endowed chair in the law school. Prager, whose scholarship has focused on California legal history and marital property law, will begin her job at Occidental on July 1.
Among the attractions of the post, Prager said, are the school's "long-time commitment" to racial and ethnic diversity and its setting, unlike many leading liberal arts colleges, in a big city.
"My interest in Occidental is wrapped up in this idea of an urban liberal arts college that understands the synergies that being in this great city provides," Prager said. "I like the fact that Occidental has, for many decades, seen its mission as being connected to issues in the region, and using those issues as a way of teaching students."
Prager is a preservationist who owns two homes with her husband of 32 years, lawyer-businessman Jim Prager, in the historic Angelino Heights area near downtown. The Pragers, who have two grown daughters, will move to Occidental's Wallis Annenberg President's House.
Occidental, founded in 1887 and located at its current campus in the Eagle Rock area since 1914, was ranked 41st nationally among the nation's liberal arts colleges in the latest ratings by U.S. News & World Report magazine. Along with being well-regarded academically, it is known for its comparatively high number of minority and low-income students.
Among Occidental's enrollment of 1,830 students, 17% are the first in their families to attend college. The median overall SAT score for this year's freshman class was 1,300 out of a possible 1,600.
Kenyon Chan, who had been Occidental's dean and vice president for academic affairs, has been interim president since Sept. 1. He will return to his duties as dean July 1.