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August 28, 2023

President of College of the Atlantic plans to step down after upcoming school year

person in purple shirt and blazer standing at large window PHOTO / FRED FIELD College of the Atlantic’s president, Darron Collins, has said that ideas around sustainability are part of the college’s DNA and were integral to the design of the new Davis Center for Human Ecology.

After more than 12 years at the helm, College of the Atlantic President Darron Collins will step down from his position at the end of the 2023-24 academic year.

“I can’t imagine a more challenging, more rewarding way to have spent the last decade-plus than as president of this incredible college, and I am grateful beyond words to have had this opportunity,” Collins said. 

COA’s board of trustees will form a presidential search committee composed of faculty, students, staff and trustees to begin a search for a new president this year, said Beth Gardiner, board chair. 

“Darron’s tenure here at COA has been a triumph in so many ways,” Gardiner said. 

It's been an especially active period of changes in college presidencies in Maine, with Bates, Bowdoin and St. Joseph's all welcoming new presidents this fall. 

Collins' legacy

Collins is a 1992 graduate of the college and was the first alumnus to take on the leadership role, in 2011. He previously spent a decade working for the World Wildlife Fund.

During his leadership at COA, the college completed two capital campaigns, the most recent of which raised $55 million, and added three buildings to the campus. They include the 29,000-square-foot Davis Center for Human Ecology, which was built to passive house standards and integrates carbon sequestration through high-density wood products for exterior cladding, interior finish and insulation.

The school has also doubled the amount of student housing available, partnered with Mount Desert 365 on a mixed-use development for downtown Northeast Harbor, created the COA Summer Institute, now in its seventh year, and was named the nation’s leading green college by the Princeton Review in its annual rankings from 2016 to 2023.

buildings in woods near water
During Collins' leadership, College of the Atlantic has been named the nation’s leading green college by the Princeton Review each year from 2016 to 2023.

Last year the college broke ground on a 12,000-square-foot 50-person residence hall, featuring mass-timber construction and wood-fiber insulation and designed to use one-fifth the energy of a similarly sized, code-compliant structure. The dorm would achieve net-zero energy usage with a 36 kilowatt, rooftop solar array.

“As proud as I am of all these accomplishments, none of them could have been achieved without the support and hard work of so many people both near and far,” Collins said. 

Founded in 1969, the College of the Atlantic has about 360 students enrolled full-time and awards bachelor's and master's degrees solely in the field of human ecology. The school became the first carbon-neutral college in the U.S. in 2007, and has committed to becoming free of fossil fuels by 2030.

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