Elizabeth Topham Kennan

Elizabeth Topham Kennan, Ph.D. is an American academic who served as the 16th president of Mount Holyoke College from 1978 - 1995. She also served as president of the Five Colleges consortium from 1985-1994.


Kennan was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After Kennan received her B.A. (summa cum laude) in history from Mount Holyoke in 1960, she pursued a second B.A. (subsequently M.A.) at Oxford University, more specifically St. Hilda's College which she completed in 1962. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1966. She was a professor of medieval history at Catholic University from 1966-1978 before joining Mount Holyoke as president. Upon her retirement from Mount Holyoke in 1995, the Kennan Faculty Chair and Lectureship was established.

Kennan is married to Michael Burns, the former actor and professor emeritus at Mount Holyoke. They presently reside near Danville, Kentucky, where they have restored the Cambus-Kenneth Estate, a thoroughbred horse farm listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mystery author

In 2000, Kennan co-authored the mystery novel, Overnight Float, with Jill Ker Conway (former president of Smith College). The novel is published under the pen - name Clare Munnings and was their first venture into the mystery genre.

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