In this panel discussion, regional higher education leaders reflected on the role of higher education in forging common ground and positively impacting our region.


Lori S. White Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Professor of Practice of Education

Lori S. White has spent more than three decades working in higher education. Prior to her arrival at Washington University, she served as the vice president for student affairs and clinical professor of education at Southern Methodist University, and she has also worked at the University of Southern California, Stanford, Georgetown, San Diego State University, and University of California, Irvine. At Washington University, White and her colleagues are responsible for a range of student life programs, including residence halls, student activities, student leadership programs, student conduct, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the First Year Student Center, health and wellness programs, career services, student academic support programs, international students and scholars, scholarship programs, the Danforth University Center, and Washington University athletics and recreational programs. White earned an undergraduate degree in psychology and English from the University of California, Berkeley and a PhD from Stanford University in education administration and policy analysis with emphasis in higher education. She also participated in Harvard University’s Management and Leadership in Education Program.


Mark S. Wrighton, Chancellor

Mark S. Wrighton is chancellor and professor of chemistry at Washington University. Since he assumed his duties in 1995, Washington University has made unprecedented progress in campus improvements, resource development, curriculum, international reputation, and in undergraduate applications and student quality. He served as a presidential appointee to the National Science Board (2000–06), which is the science policy advisor to the president and Congress and is the primary advisory board of the National Science Foundation. He has received many awards for his research and scholarly writing, including the distinguished MacArthur Prize. He is the author of over 300 articles in professional and scholarly journals and the holder of 16 patents. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the American Philosophical Society. Active in public and professional affairs, he has served on numerous governmental panels and has been a consultant to industry. He is an active member of numerous professional organizations and serves as a director on the boards of national companies and St. Louis organizations. He received his bachelor’s degree with honors in chemistry from Florida State University in 1969 and his doctorate in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1972.


Nancy Hellerud, Vice Provost, Webster University

Nancy Hellerud joined Webster University in April 2011. She serves as chief of staff to the provost, overseeing operations of the Office of Academic Affairs. She works with the senior administration, deans, and faculty on a range of policy issues and strategic initiatives, with a focus on improving procedures and policies.

Prior to joining Webster, Hellerud served as interim dean (2010–2011) and associate dean (2004–2010) of the Hamline School of Business in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was an assistant professor in the department of management and marketing. She holds a JD from the University of Oregon School of Law, an MA in liberal studies from Hamline University, and a BA in English and German, also from Hamline.

Hellerud’s responsibilities include academic advising, the Academic Resource Center, Faculty Development Center, and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness.

Mary M. McKay, Dean, Brown School, Washington University in St. Louis

Mary McKay joined the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis as dean July 1, 2016. Previously, she was McSilver Professor of Social Work and the inaugural director of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work. Under McKay’s leadership, the McSilver Institute grew to more than 50 full-time employees and over $30 million in funded projects benefiting poverty-impacted families and communities, locally and globally. Prior to joining NYU Silver, McKay served as the head of the Division of Mental Health Services Research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She has received substantial federal funding for research focused on meeting the mental health and health prevention needs of poverty-impacted youth and families. She has published more than 150 publications on mental and behavioral health, HIV/AIDS prevention and behavior modification, and other urban health issues.

Fred P. Pestello President, Saint Louis University

Fred P. Pestello became the 33rd president and CEO of Saint Louis University in 2014. He is the first permanent lay president of Saint Louis University since its founding in 1818. Pestello oversees one of the nation’s leading Jesuit research universities with nearly 13,000 students, more than 7,000 employees, an annual operating budget of more than $775 million, and an endowment of $1.1 billion. SLU’s accomplishments during Pestello’s tenure include a $115 million investment in student housing and a historic partnership with SSM Health that includes the building of a $550 million hospital and outpatient facility at the SLU Medical Center. Pestello actively sustains a campus-wide focus on inclusivity, having peacefully resolved a major campus protest in fall 2014. Pestello earned his bachelor’s degree at John Carroll University and completed his graduate work in sociology at the University of Akron.

Jeff L. Pittman, Chancellor, St. Louis Community College

As the chancellor of St. Louis Community College (STLCC), Jeff L. Pittman serves as chief executive officer of a multicampus college system that offers 15 college transfer options and 90-plus career programs. STLCC serves more than 80,000 students annually.

Prior to joining STLCC in July 2015, Pittman served as statewide vice president of corporate college services and online education at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, the state’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system, annually serving nearly 200,000 students.

Pittman’s earned a doctorate in educational leadership, administration, and foundations from Indiana State University. He earned his master’s degree in human resource development from Indiana State University and his bachelor’s degree in business from Indiana University.

Dwaun J. Warmack President, Harris-Stowe State University

Dwaun J. Warmack serves as president of Harris-Stowe State University and is one of the youngest serving presidents of a four-year institution in the nation. Warmack brings to the position more than 18 years of progressive administrative experience in higher education at five distinct higher education institutions. Warmack is a scholar-practitioner and possesses a wealth of experience in program design, faculty and student development, assessment, and accreditation. Throughout his career he has championed inclusion, academic excellence, and the retention of underrepresented students. He has presented more than 120 diversity and leadership presentations and workshops to an array of individuals and groups. Warmack earned a bachelor’s degree in education and master’s degree in sociology from Delta State University. He earned his doctorate in educational leadership with a specialization in higher education from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, and conducted his postdoctoral studies in educational leadership at Harvard University School of Education.