President Rhona C. Free
Rhona C. Free, Ph.D., became the ninth President of the University of Saint Joseph in July 2015. During her time at USJ, she has guided the deliberations that led to the University’s decision to become fully-coeducational and championed the creation of the Women’s Leadership Center. She has overseen the University’s restructuring from five Schools to three; the consolidation of health care programs onto the West Hartford campus; significant expansion of athletic programs and facilities; the launch of the Catholic Promise Scholarship program; and completion of numerous capital projects to enhance student life, campus accessibility, and classroom spaces.
Dr. Free serves as Past Chair of the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges Board of Directors; Vice Chair of the Conference for Mercy Higher Education (CMHE) Presidents’ Council and a member of the CMHE Board of Directors; and a member of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Presidents’ Council. She also is a member of the Connecticut Science Center’s Board of Trustees and the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and is a Hartford Hospital Corporator.
Dr. Free came to USJ from Eastern Connecticut State University, where she served as vice president for academic affairs from 2007-2013 and provost from 2013-2015. She taught Economics at Eastern for 25 years before becoming an administrator. In 2004, she was recognized as the Council for Advancement and Support of Education/Carnegie Foundation National Professor of the Year from Master’s Granting Institutions.
Her research has focused on gender and racial/ethnic earnings differences, collective bargaining and occupational health and safety, and innovative teaching methods. Her publications include a chapter, “On Scholarly Teaching: A Personal Account,” in Inspiring Academics: Learning with the World’s Great University Teachers. She also edited the two-volume text 21st Century Economics: A Reference Handbook, which received the American Library Association’s RUSA 2011 Outstanding Reference Sources Award.
She holds a bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College, and earned both master’s and doctoral degrees in Economics from the University of Notre Dame. She has been married to Peter Boardman since 1979. They have two children and three grandchildren.